Early Radio (Susan Smulyan)
The early commercialization of radio with Susan Smulyan (Brown)

In this episode, we discuss the early commercialization of the radio industry with Susan Smulyan, author of Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting, 1920 – 1934 (Smithsonian Press).

Smulyan is a Professor of American Studies and former director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage both at Brown University. Her newest book is Doing Public Humanities, (Routledge, 2020).

The very meticulous Professor Smulyan asked us to list the following notes/corrections to the show page:

  • The “first” broadcasting station (she notes: “historians hate to name “firsts”) was KDKA, in Pittsburgh, begun in November 1920, by Dr. Frank Conrad, working for Westinghouse.
  • The first broadcast licenses were given out by the Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover (not the Secretary of the Interior) until the Radio Act of 1924 when the Federal Radio Commission took over.
  • The British Broadcasting Company was founded in October, 1922.

Other books mentioned:

  • Susan J. Douglas, Listening In: Radio And The American Imagination, First edition (Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2004);
  • Michele Hilmes, Network Nations: A Transnational History of British and American Broadcasting (New York: Routledge, 2011);
  • Jason Loviglio, Radio’s Intimate Public : Network Broadcasting and Mass-Mediated Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).

Other histories of American radio broadcasting recommended by Professor Smulyan:

  • David Goodman, Radio’s Civic Ambition : American Broadcasting and Democracy in the 1930s (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2011);
  • Michele Hilmes, Only Connect: A Cultural History of Broadcasting in the United States, 4 edition (Australia: Cengage Learning, 2013);
  • Alexander Russo, Points on the Dial: Golden Age Radio beyond the Networks (Durham, N.C: Duke University Press Books, 2010).

Photo Credit. By Joe Haupt from USA – Radio Collection: Vintage Large Wood Westinghouse Tombstone Radio, Circa 1930s, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35191546

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