Radio In The 1930’s

People in the 1930’s were heavily influenced by the radio. By 1939, almost everybody in America owned a radio. A family sitting around the radio, listening to a comedy routine or the news became commonplace. One of the things that appealed most to listeners was that there were many different things to listen to. Some of the daily programming on the radio included soap operas, adventure stories, news reports, public speeches, and comedians. People liked that they could get entertainment in their house instead of having to travel to the movie theater, the circus, or any other entertaining venue.

Convenience played a major part in the popularity growth of radios. Radio was the most important new form of entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1930, almost fifteen million families owned a radio and that number had doubled by 1940. Some of the most listened to programming was the variety shows and comedic sitcoms. Amos ‘n’ Andy, a popular radio sitcom, starred Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. These actors were former vaudeville performers. During the harsh times the nation was facing, even a 15 minute show could bring comic relief to the American population.

The War Of The Worlds, by Orson Welles, caused an on-air and off-air commotion. The night that CBS’s Mercury Theater of the Air, a broadcast drama based on Orson Welles’ book premiered, people were struck with fear about the story of Martians invading Earth. Thousands of phone calls were made to CBS, newspaper offices, and police stations. This panic got out of hand and shortly after the fake news broadcasts, the FCC conducted hearings and passed laws and regulated that no fake news was to be reported. The following quote shows the lasting impression of the radio; “There are three things I shall never forget about America-the Rocky Mts. the Statue of Liberty and Amos ‘n’ Andy. ” -George Bernard Shaw The radio was also very unruly and confusing at times.

At that time, radio was such a new agent that very few regulations were made. Radio was beginning to be cluttered because of all the free air time and no control on what went on the airways. Radio stations often broadcasted over each other and created static filled programming. Astrologers, wacky psychologists, and motivational speakers rushed to get air time. Once everyone saw how huge the radio business was becoming, they took advantage of the opportunity and filled up the airwaves.

These agitating messages had to be taken care of. Eventually, the FCC, or Federal Communications Commission was made in 1934. They were in charge or regulating what was and was not aired. As you can see, most things on the radio were entertaining, but some were just plain annoying. Even in the worst years of the Depression, from 1930 to 1932, around four million Americans could scrape up enough money to buy a set. Most people listened to the radio for one of the following reasons, 1) to keep up with the news, 2) for political purposes, 3) to be entertained, and even 4), to hear the advertisements.

According to Carolyn Kott Washburne, author of America In The 20th Century: 1930-1939, Americans would tune in to the radio “… about four and a half hours a day… ” Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of the first politicians to effectively use the radio to influence the listeners. His ‘fireside chats’ were really just miniature state of the union addresses. Huey Long also used the radio as means of political career advancement. A few radio programs were educational; however, the majority of radio programming was for news or entertainment value. Again, the radio was one of the most valuable inventions of the 20th century for many reasons.

It gave hopeless people jobs as well as gave everyone entertainment. It was a way of escaping your troubles for awhile, or a lifeline of sorts in the hard times that America was facing. The radio is still widely used today, which shows how influential and important it is. Radio has changed since its golden days in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. It is now a secondary source of music, news, and entertainment. Obviously, times have changed and technology has increased, however, the radio still remains one of the most popular and useful mediums of communication.

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