Radio and Television Regulation: Broadcast Technology in the United States, 1920-1960

Overview

From AM radio to color television, broadcasting raised enormous practical and policy problems in the United States, especially in relation to the federal government's role in licensing and regulation. How did technological change, corporate interest, and political pressures bring about the world that station owners work within today (and that tuned-in consumers make profitable)? In Radio and Television Regulation, Hugh R. Slotten examines the choices that confronted federal agencies—first the Department of ...

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Overview

From AM radio to color television, broadcasting raised enormous practical and policy problems in the United States, especially in relation to the federal government's role in licensing and regulation. How did technological change, corporate interest, and political pressures bring about the world that station owners work within today (and that tuned-in consumers make profitable)? In Radio and Television Regulation, Hugh R. Slotten examines the choices that confronted federal agencies—first the Department of Commerce, then the Federal Radio Commission in 1927, and seven years later the Federal Communications Commission—and shows the impact of their decisions on developing technologies.

Slotten analyzes the policy debates that emerged when the public implications of AM and FM radio and black-and-white and color television first became apparent. His discussion of the early years of radio examines powerful personalities—including navy secretary Josephus Daniels and commerce secretary Herbert Hoover—who maneuvered for government control of "the wireless." He then considers fierce competition among companies such as Westinghouse, GE, and RCA, which quickly grasped the commercial promise of radio and later of television and struggled for technological edge and market advantage. Analyzing the complex interplay of the factors forming public policy for radio and television broadcasting, and taking into account the ideological traditions that framed these controversies, Slotten sheds light on the rise of the regulatory state. In an epilogue he discusses his findings in terms of contemporary debates over high-resolution TV.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Radio Studies - Jeremy Harris Lipschultz

[ Radio and Television Regulation] is a solidly grounded scholarship of the highest quality.

Journal of American History - Christopher H. Sterling

Slotten's study is a valuable addition to the historical literature on broadcasting (or more broadly the regulation of technology in society). It is both well researched and well written.

Enterprise and Society - Jason Loviglio

Another soild contribution to the literature on the development of U.S. broadcasting. Slotten's research into the complex process of broadcast regulation is meticulous.

Historian - Michael C. Keith

The depiction of the manifold tensions that exist between technocratic and nontechnocratic views concerning the function of public policy institutions infuse the book's narrative with a freshness and originality that make it a welcome and valuable addition to what has been an otherwise lackluster list of titles typically more intent on describing the rules and regulations that govern broadcast media than in examining their revealing and illuminating origins.

American Historical Review - Craig Allen

Not since the writings of Marshall McLuhan have knowledge shapers in the broadcast field shown interest in technological determinism... Finally Hugh R. Slotten redeems a technological perspective.

Business History Review - James Schwoch

A rigorous and thoughtful study of American broadcast regulation is always a valuable contribution. Hugh Slotten's new book succeeds admirably in this regard.

Technology and Culture - William J. White

Slotten's work usefully augments the body of literature concerned with telecommunications and mass media law, policy, and regulation.

Journal of Radio Studies
[ Radio and Television Regulation] is a solidly grounded scholarship of the highest quality.

— Jeremy Harris Lipschultz

Journal of American History
Slotten's study is a valuable addition to the historical literature on broadcasting (or more broadly the regulation of technology in society). It is both well researched and well written.

— Christopher H. Sterling

Enterprise and Society
Another soild contribution to the literature on the development of U.S. broadcasting. Slotten's research into the complex process of broadcast regulation is meticulous.

— Jason Loviglio

Historian
The depiction of the manifold tensions that exist between technocratic and nontechnocratic views concerning the function of public policy institutions infuse the book's narrative with a freshness and originality that make it a welcome and valuable addition to what has been an otherwise lackluster list of titles typically more intent on describing the rules and regulations that govern broadcast media than in examining their revealing and illuminating origins.

— Michael C. Keith

International Review of Administrative Sciences

Analyzing the complex interplay of of the factors forming public policy for radio and television broadcasting, and taking into account the ideological traditions that framed these controversies, the author sheds light on the rise of the regulatory state.

American Historical Review
Not since the writings of Marshall McLuhan have knowledge shapers in the broadcast field shown interest in technological determinism... Finally Hugh R. Slotten redeems a technological perspective.

— Craig Allen

Business History Review
A rigorous and thoughtful study of American broadcast regulation is always a valuable contribution. Hugh Slotten's new book succeeds admirably in this regard.

— James Schwoch

Technology and Culture
Slotten's work usefully augments the body of literature concerned with telecommunications and mass media law, policy, and regulation.

— William J. White

Booknews
Slotten (a postdoctoral fellow, history of science, Harvard U.) analyzes the early role of the federal government in the development of the US broadcast industry, as well as industry traditions that were established then, to shed light on contemporary problems and debate as technology changes and deregulation becomes the norm. The work focuses on the intersection of technical issues and the social, political, legal, and economic components of decisions made as radio and television developed in the first half of the 20th century. An epilogue discusses Slotten's findings in terms of current debates about high-resolution TV. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801864506
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Hugh R. Slotten is a postdoctoral fellow in the History of Science Department at Harvard University. He is the author of Patronage, Practice, and the Culture of American Science.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
1 Engineering Public Policy for Radio: Herbert Hoover, the Department of Commerce, and the Broadcast Boom, 1900-1927 1
2 Radio Engineers, the Federal Radio Commission, and the Social Shaping of Broadcast Technology: "Creating Radio Paradise," 1927-1934 43
3 Competition for Standards: Television Broadcasting, Commercialization, and Technical Expertise, 1928-1941 68
4 "Rainbow in the Sky": FM Radio, Technical Superiority, and Regulatory Decision Making, 1936-1948 113
5 VHF and UHF: Establishing a Nationwide Television System, 1945-1960 145
6 Competition for Color-Television Standards: Formulating Policy for Technological Innovation, 1946-1960 189
Epilogue 232
Notes 245
Note on Secondary Sources 293
Index 301
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