29 The Golden Age of Programming Sterling & Kittross Presented by: Kelly Franck & Kathy Woo
Thesis: the development of radio programming in the late 1930s was a catalyst in public participation in political and cultural matters
On average, radio
stations broadcasted at
least 12 hours a day, but
many for 18 hours or
Some Statistics from FCC’s March 1938 survey of programming:
53% of airtime was devoted to music
11% talks and dialogues
9% to drama
9% to variety
9% to news
5% to religion and devotion
2% to special events
2% to miscellaneous
In total, 50%-70% were network affiliates of programming
Music remained the staple of most radio schedules.
Local stations were offered service from transcription companies operated by networks and independents
Transcription companies pre-recorded music, some of which were programmed
By early 1939, more than 575 stations subscribed to at least one transcription service, and nearly half of them used two or more
RCA’s transcription operation probably accounted for 35% of the industry’s business
The rise and falls of music genres
Classical musical programs declined in importance on the networks after the early 1930s
With the exception of NBC Symphony Orchestra
Large dance bands were increasingly heard on both national and local programs
1930s’ reputation as the “big band era”
Local stations presented a wide range of live music
Radio as Opportunities to Stardom
Local or national amateur hour broadcasts presented unknowns who would sing, tap dance, or do imitation in the hope of making a career
The most famous amateur variety show was Major Bowes and His Original Amateur Hour
Besides music, Drama was the most important network in programming in hours broadcast per week
In 1935, the weekly hours of broadcasting increased
By 1940, the four networks combined devoted 75
hours a week to drama series
Primarily, drama series emphasized domestic life with its ups and–more usually– its downs
What kind of role should radio play in society?
Do you think that role was fulfilled in the 1930s?
In 1938 Welles created the new series called Mercury Theatre on the Air
He created a Halloween program which most consider one of the most famous radio shows ever presented
The show was made in present time, and many viewers thought it was a real news program
The FCC decided that these types of “scare” programs and formats as broadcasting were not in the public interest
The show was an adaptation on the fiction story “War of the Worlds”
Thrillers and situation comedies filled more network time per week than any other form of drama
Most network dramas occurred in the evening
Only the largest stations produced their own dramatic programs regularly
The audience had to use its imagination to fill in the setting and the action -> without the audience’s imagination, radio drama would have never succeeded
Radio as a political instrument in the U.S came into its own with the first administration of Roosevelt
He began a series called “Fireside Chats” on the problems of the Depression
He conduced 28 broadcasts
The ratings were very high
During 1936 presidential election campaign, the Republican party tried many uses of radio -> interviews, debates, and pre-recorded speeches
Surveys conducted during this campaign suggested that most voters now considered radio more important than newspapers as a source of political news
Pre-recorded speeches of Roosevelt violated CBS policy against recordings and most network affiliates did not air the entire program because of that
Discussion: Do you think if something similar to the “War of the Worlds” radio show happened today, people would believe it at all? Why or why not? Do you think it would make more of an impact through a different type of medium?
Advertising agencies slow to see potential in radio for product promotion
Opposition to radio in agencies early 1920’s
N. W. Ayer Agency participated in earliest
experimentation of radio broadcasting
William H. Rankin Agency was the earliest example of Hollywood agency radio interaction
J. Walter Thompson (JWT) displayed uneasy feelings about radio, but in 1927 formed official radio department
John U. Reber, head of JWT radio department, first to dismiss radio experts
JWT had “showmanship,” NBC did not
1923 JWT concerned with common reader
1927 Lowbrow advertising
JWT famous Lux Hollywood endorsement campaign
Danny Danker and radio production Hollywood
Reber and Danker created “Hollywood era of radio”
mid 1930’s schedules occupied by programs provided by agencies on behalf of sponsors
late 1920’s musical programs agency driven programs
agencies push for recorded programs for benefit of clients
resisted by networks
Discussion: Why do you think showmanship was an effective tool for JWT?
“ Network Woes”
Tensions developed between networks and advertising agencies as the agencies got out of control.
Agencies failed to submit their scripts, leading to new policies and network censors – these were undermined.
Celebrities were invited without network approval and resorted to humour deemed inappropriate by NBC.
1930s: radio networks responded to pressures of social negotiation by:
Creating a separate daytime sphere for the most offensive shows.
Encouraging non-controversial domestic drama that focused on the “average American family”.
These dramas and sitcoms were eventually carried over onto early television.
Notorious for being radio’s bad boy, comedian Fred Allen pushed the network over the edge.
Fed up, by the late 1940s, NBC began to undercut the power of the agencies.
32 Understanding Radio McLuhan Presented by: Chris Gallo & Kevan Hamilton
In this chapter Marshall McLuhan discusses:
what the use of radio meant for
literate Western civilization
“ tribal” societies
how television effected radio
radio’s impact on the press, advertising, drama, and poetry
Radio and Literate, Western Civilizations
Exposure to literacy and industrialism conflicts with McLuhan’s idea of what radio stands for.
First mass experience of electronic implosion
reversal of direction and meaning of Western civilization
Absorbed radio without revolution
continuity, uniformity, and repeatability -> standardization
Radio and “Tribal” Societies
Social existence is an extension of family life.
Radio is a violent experience
German obsession with lebensraum
Auditory vs. Visual
German & middle-European access to radio enabled them to excel in music, dance, and sculpture
Involves people in-depth
affects people intimately, person-to-person
after the rise of literacy, radio neutralized nationalism but evoked “tribal ghosts” -> uncovered the lost qualities of the spoken word
an extension of the central nervous system
provides new meanings and textures to words
develops an independent isolation
Television’s Impact on Radio
From entertainment to information
news, time signals, traffic data, and the weather
TV rejects hot figures and hot issues
Radio seems more appealing
Do you agree that radio provides a private, experience that encourages individuality?
Jean Shepherd (WOR New York) regards radio as a new medium for a new type of novel, where the microphone is his pen and paper, the audience and their knowledge are the characters, scenes, and moods.
Jean Shepherd ultimately uses the radio as an essay and novel form for recording awareness in a new world with universal human participation.
The radio has gained as little recognition as the written word. Its ability to shape society into a collective group has gone unnoticed.
David Sarnoff proposed the idea of a “music box” for the home to the director of the American Marconi Company in 1916, but it was ignored. Later in the same year, was the first radio broadcast.
Initially, there was no commercial interest in the radio. Early radio facilities were met with reluctance from the press, eventually leading to the formation of the BBC and the “firm shackling of radio by newspaper and advertising interests”.
Even though the medium is the message , controls and censorship go beyond programming and are directed as the content of the message (which can be perceived as another medium in itself). Therefore, the effects of the radio should be seen as being independent of its programming.
The commercial entertainment strategy that has been taken up ensures messages of advertising as passed at a fast rate. A strategy by those “dedicated to permanence rather than change”.
Education will become a defense from fallout media. The only medium that education currently offers some defense from is print media.
Radio contributes to the ‘Global Village’ phenomenon by contracting the world down to village size, while creating collective group opinions. However, it doesn’t quite homogenize the village quarters I.e., India has more than 12 official languages, and the same number of official radio networks.
The effect of radio as a ‘reviver of archaism’ is not limited to Hitler’s Germany; Ireland, Scotland and Wales have seen as a resurgence of their ancient languages since the arrival of the radio.
Radio now turns to the specific needs of people at different times of the day, illustrated by the presence of radios in washrooms, kitchens, cars, bedrooms, and pockets. The radio has now turned to private and individual uses.
The radio renders the political, structural assumptions of Plato irrelevant, in that it links a large-scale community together by providing the same content to people hundreds of miles apart.
How important is the radio to the structure of society? Does it impact societal values? Discussion: