Friday, April 23, 2010

Plus ça change

Michael Stamm, The Sound of Print: Newspapers and the Public Promotion of Early Radio Broadcasting in the United States, in Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, eds. David Suisman & Susan Strasser, 221, 231-32 (2010):

Publishers charged that radio news was harmful to society because it reached the public through sound, a method of delivery that many claimed was vastly inferior to print. The radio listener, in the minds of many publishers, was an easily satisfied and even lazy citizen who did not want to commit to the hard work of reading…. [P]rint required a greater commitment from readers than radio did from listeners, and this 1930s critique of ‘sound-bite’ news promoted newspaper reading as the means to obtain news and information in the more legitimate form….

The campaigns by anti-radio publishers to contain the perceived threat posed by radio news culminated in December 1933, when representatives from the radio and newspaper industries gathered at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City to negotiate the so-called Biltmore agreement. … Under the Agreement, radio stations would receive two daily press reports from the wire services and be allowed two daily five-minute news broadcasts, one in the morning and one in the evening. The morning report could not be given before 9:30 A.M., and the evening report could not be given before 9:00 P.M. The overriding goal of the Biltmore Agreement was to limit radio’s ability to compete directly with newspapers in the dissemination of news ….

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

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