By Jeffrey Land
Lively Radio: Pacifica's Brash test (Commerce and Mass tradition)
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Additional info for Active Radio: Pacifica's Brash Experiment
Thus, under government stewardship, the educational possibilities of broadcasting were whittled down to size and eventually left in the hands of such agents of democracy and culture as Du Pont Chemicals, Philip Morris, and General Electric. The example of the highly touted program in civics You and Your Government might well serve as a bellwether of the “public interest” considerations of the commercial networks. Initiated in 1932 at the behest of NBC in loose concert with the American Political Science Association, this program over its first four years enlisted the talents of teachers and politicians nationwide to provide provocative commentary on a number of topics from taxes to the Constitution.
They claimed that the control of radio had rapidly devolved onto a potentate of media moguls, producing mindless entertainment solely to attract the largest audiences for their sponsors. In response, the radio industry could claim that licenses were “owned” by hundreds of independent stations. While critics argued that advertisers ultimately determined the nature of programming by demanding the largest possible audience, the government, citing its widespread distribution of licenses, countered that it had taken effective steps to prevent monopolistic practices in the industry, thereby ensuring the nation essential First Amendment practices in the electronic media.
11 The Dill-White Radio Act of 1927, which established the Federal Radio Commission and its licensing regime, became the core of all subsequent broadcasting regulation. As White’s quote intimates, federal regulation identifies “enjoyment” as the core experience of radio while positing that access to the ether must be limited to safeguard the fundamental ability to receive signals. Almost nothing in the emerging legislation addressed either advertising sponsorship or corporate control of the networks, the material basis of the American System of broadcasting.
Active Radio: Pacifica's Brash Experiment by Jeffrey Land