And now a word from our sponsor.... When the first radio stations signed on in the 1920s, this phrase was unknown to listeners. Fifteen years later, however, advertising ruled the airwaves. Selling Radio recounts the initial difficult coupling of broadcasting and advertising, shows how the triumph of advertising transformed the content of radio ...
And now a word from our sponsor.... When the first radio stations signed on in the 1920s, this phrase was unknown to listeners. Fifteen years later, however, advertising ruled the airwaves. Selling Radio recounts the initial difficult coupling of broadcasting and advertising, shows how the triumph of advertising transformed the content of radio programming, and exposes the complicity of business, technology, and government in reducing the promise of radio to the adage that "time is money." Susan Smulyan argues that the emergence of commercialized broadcasting was not an inevitable development but rather the result of a bitter struggle over the form and content of the new technology. Initially schools, churches, and small businesses sponsored stations, broadcasting local sporting events and such home-grown comedy and musical acts as "The Happiness Boys." In the mid-1920s, the enthusiasm that greeted the idea of a national broadcasting system quickly soured with the announcement that wired networks using AT&T's long lines would be financed by selling radio time to advertisers. Early opponents of commercial radio included not only listeners but also station owners, educators, religious leaders, and Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, all of whom decried the "worthless stuff" of advertising. Even prospective advertisers doubted that radio ads would work. Selling Radio describes how the radio industry overcame the opposition and in the process dramatically altered the content of broadcasting. As listeners were reduced to consumers, folksy regional programs were replaced with slick, fully scripted shows and schedules created by sponsors to attract a nationwide audience. With the passage ofthe Communications Act of 1934, the paradigm of commercial-driven programming was established and later adopted without question by the next great communications technology - television.
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Publishers Weekly, 1994-02-14 When radio began, it was the exclusive province of those interested in the advancement of technology; programming was of little concern and commercialization was not even thought of. But, as the medium's popularity grew and radio sets entered millions of homes, the concern with filling air time grew, even as programming became increasingly expensive. The result was to commercialize the air waves, resulting in the diminution of the hope that radio would be primarily a source of education and/or a force for national unity. As Smulyan, an assistant professor in the Department of American Civilization at Brown, so succinctly puts it, the attempt was ``to reduce listeners to the lowest common denominator, that of consumer.'' How that goal was gradually accomplished in the period between the two world wars is the subject of this admirably researched volume, which is informative, but handicapped by the author's dry academic style. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
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