Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935

By Robert W. McChesney | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9 January 1935 and Beyond: The Ideological Consolidation of the Status Quo

In the period following the FCC report to Congress in January 1935 the remainder of the broadcast reform movement lost its momentum and collapsed. Moreover, with this collapse, there was little opposition to the widely disseminated promotional claims of the commercial broadcasters that their control of the ether was innately democratic and American; indeed, that no other system could even be conceivable to a freedom-loving people.

A critical new component to this mid- to late- 1930s campaign by the networks and their allies was the argument that any government regulation of the status quo whatsoever held the potential to degenerate into a heinous state-censored system with the most ignominious implications for democratic rule. In effect, the industry sought to eliminate any regulation of radio broadcasting whatsoever. Although this campaign was not entirely successful, it laid the way for the emerging dominant paradigm regarding broadcasting in the United States that deemed the control of the ether by commercial broadcasters as inviolable and outside the boundaries of legitimate discussion.

Concurrently, liberal thinkers, who had reacted to the emergence of commercial broadcasting at the beginning of the decade with considerable skepticism if not outright hostility, came to accept commercial broadcasting as the appropriate media structure for the United States. This chapter will evaluate the deregulation campaign of the later 1930s in the context of the overall sanctification of the status quo.


The Collapse of the Broadcast Reform Movement

It is ironic that precisely as the possibility for broadcast reform had been eliminated on Capitol Hill, Senator C. C. Dill, the broadcast reform move-

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