Radio and Television Regulation
Broadcast Technology in the United States, 1920-1960
From AM radio to color television, broadcasting raised enormous practical and policy problems in the United States, especially in relation to the federal government's role in licensing and regulation. How did technological change, corporate interest, and political pressures bring about the world that station owners work within today (and that tuned-in consumers make profitable)? In Radio and Television Regulation, Hugh R. Slotten examines the choices that confronted federal agencies—first the Department of Commerce, then the Federal Radio Commission in 1927, and seven years later the Federal Communications Commission—and shows the impact of their decisions on developing technologies.
Slotten analyzes the policy debates that emerged when the public implications of AM and FM radio and black-and-white and color television first became apparent. His discussion of the early years of radio examines powerful personalities—including navy secretary Josephus Daniels and commerce secretary Herbert Hoover—who maneuvered for government control of "the wireless." He then considers fierce competition among companies such as Westinghouse, GE, and RCA, which quickly grasped the commercial promise of radio and later of television and struggled for technological edge and market advantage. Analyzing the complex interplay of the factors forming public policy for radio and television broadcasting, and taking into account the ideological traditions that framed these controversies, Slotten sheds light on the rise of the regulatory state. In an epilogue he discusses his findings in terms of contemporary debates over high-resolution TV.
About the Author
Hugh R. Slotten is a postdoctoral fellow in the History of Science Department at Harvard University. He is the author of Patronage, Practice, and the Culture of American Science.
"[Radio and Television Regulation] is a solidly grounded scholarship of the highest quality."
"Slotten's study is a valuable addition to the historical literature on broadcasting (or more broadly the regulation of technology in society). It is both well researched and well written."
"Another soild contribution to the literature on the development of U.S. broadcasting. Slotten's research into the complex process of broadcast regulation is meticulous."
"The depiction of the manifold tensions that exist between technocratic and nontechnocratic views concerning the function of public policy institutions infuse the book's narrative with a freshness and originality that make it a welcome and valuable addition to what has been an otherwise lackluster list of titles typically more intent on describing the rules and regulations that govern broadcast media than in examining their revealing and illuminating origins."
"Analyzing the complex interplay of of the factors forming public policy for radio and television broadcasting, and taking into account the ideological traditions that framed these controversies, the author sheds light on the rise of the regulatory state."
"Not since the writings of Marshall McLuhan have knowledge shapers in the broadcast field shown interest in technological determinism... Finally Hugh R. Slotten redeems a technological perspective."
"A rigorous and thoughtful study of American broadcast regulation is always a valuable contribution. Hugh Slotten's new book succeeds admirably in this regard."
"Slotten's work usefully augments the body of literature concerned with telecommunications and mass media law, policy, and regulation."
"Slotten effectively uses published primary sources and unpublished archives to discuss the complex interactions between engineers and policy-makers in the United States. The scope of the book is excellent and covers decisions over a forty-year period involving four major technologies (AM radio, monochrome television, FM radio, and color television) that defined the broadcast industry until the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 1996."
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