Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting, 1920-1934
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, ... Show synopsis 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.