Academic journal article Journalism History

Big Voices of the Air: The Battle over Clear Channel

Academic journal article Journalism History

Big Voices of the Air: The Battle over Clear Channel

Article excerpt

Foust, James C. Big Voices of the Air: The Battle over Clear Channel Radio. Ames: University of Iowa Press, 2000. 249 pp. $49.95.

Starting in 1928, as the Federal Communications Commission began one of its periodic attempts to reallocate the broadcast spectrum, a conflict developed between the broadcasting industry's most powerful stations the so-called "clear channels"and the rest of the industry. For the next three decades, the "big voices" of radio "forty stations with up to 500,000 watts of power" sought to keep the FCC from licensing more local radio stations, which threatened to encroach on the audience of the clear channel stations. Born of technological experimentation in the 1920s, the clear channels were initially seen as a way of reaching America's remote rural populations, which were often out of range of the smaller local transmitters (limited to 50,000 watts). However, as broadcasting turned toward an advertising-based commercial model, the economic potential made possible by large audiences became a central issue for many broadcasting concerns. As James Foust convincingly argues in Big Voices of the Air, the "voices"of clear channel stations were big for reasons beyond their wattage: they were able to control the policy debate over their own future. The Clear Channel Broadcasting Service, established in 1941, forged a relationship with farmers and their congressional lobbying groups in an effort to control the discourse over the fate of clear channel broadcasting. …

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