Rise of Radio: From Marconi through the Golden Age

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As the dominant form of electronic mass communication in the United States from the 1930s into the 1950s, radio helped to forge a modern continental nation. It fused myriad subcultures—heavily rural, ethnic, and immigrant—into a national identity, unifying the nation in the face of the Depression and war. Later, federal deregulation allowed the radio of the "Golden Age," 1926-1952, to devolve into a chain-dominated, satellite-fed plaything of Wall Street. Today, radio has the highest profit ratio of all the media outlets—and Golden Age traditions of programming taste, diversity, balance, and localism are a legacy squandered.

This anecdote-rich sweep of radio history, from its birth as Marconi's "wireless telegraph" through its current status under deregulation, analyzes the changing medium's social, political, and cultural impact. It casts new light on many topics, including the roles of women and African Americans, programming sources outside the Hollywood-Broadway nexus, and arguments about Amos 'n' Andy—once the hit that jump-started radio's young networks, now a controversial remnant of a bygone era. The book is augmented with more than sixty photos, extensive source notes, and a bibliography.

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Editorial Reviews

60 Minutes - Mike Wallace
it's a fabulous book and the research that went into it is stunning!
Norman Corwin
will live long in the literature of radio and deservedly so
Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly
anyone teaching a...broadcast history course would do well to consider this book"
Radio & Television Museum News
Antique Wireless Assoc. Journal
Thoroughly researched and documented.
Columbia Journalism Review
Mike Wallace
A fabulous book...the research that went into it is stunning!
Saturday Review
Should become a classroom standard.
— Robert Lewis Shayon
The Illustrated Press
"One of the first truly scholarly histories of radio...excellent job."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786423682
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/17/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Alfred Balk was a former editor at Columbia Journalism Review, Saturday Review, and other magazines. He wrote more than 100 articles for Harper's, Reader's Digest, and other publications, taught at Columbia and Syracuse, and was the author or co-author of seven other books.

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Table of Contents

1 Radio's roots 19
2 An industry is born 31
3 The radio craze 40
4 AT&T tries a takeover 48
5 Programming's ascent 54
6 Enter advertising 61
7 Regulation arrives, set-making thrives 67
8 And now, networks 74
9 "Playboy" Paley surprises 81
10 Amos, Andy, and liftoff 87
11 Chicago's innings 98
12 Cincinnati, Detroit, and Tonto 107
13 Westward, ho! 114
14 Mutual arrives, ad agencies program 121
15 The great press and identity wars 128
16 Comedy's trail blazers 139
17 Comedy's second wave 152
18 Sitcoms tonight 160
19 Adventure, crime, mystery 168
20 "Get your decoders ready" 174
21 Uncle Don to "school of the air" 181
22 "Can a young woman who ..." 188
23 Playwrights stage center 195
24 Baritones to barn dances 203
25 Blues to big bands 210
26 Talking heads 218
27 The jackpot question is ... 226
28 We/you are there 233
29 Maturity blooms 245
30 War, NBC's split, ABC 252
31 By the home fires 259
32 Before the fall 266
33 An old order dies 275
34 A legacy lost 282
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