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The Broadcasting Goose
March 1930 Radio News

March 1930 Radio News

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Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

"Are we killing the broadcasting goose, layer of many golden eggs?" Dr. Lee de Forest asked in his inaugural address, upon his election to the presidency of the Institute of Radio Engineers. So went the opening editorial in a 1930 edition of Radio News magazine. It was directed at the question of whether excessive, "gratuitous" advertising was going to be so offensive to listeners that they would turn off the set and go back to their former silent worlds. Remember that many, if not most, households, and certainly not automobiles, even had radios at the time. Building an audience was essential to nurturing the new phenomenon of radio, and to saturate the listeners with commercials would surely doom the medium. Dr. de Forest would be truly depressed if he could see the commercial broadcast landscape today with it consisting of 15-20% advertising content and much of the rest filled with political and social subliminal and overt messaging.

The Broadcasting Goose

 - RF Cafe"Are we killing the broadcasting goose, layer of many golden eggs?" Dr. Lee De Forest asked in his inaugural address, upon his election to the presidency of the Institute of Radio Engineers. Are we? The question has already aroused much controversy among radio broadcasters and in the newspapers. And Radio News urges its readers to consider - what is excessive radio advertising going to do to radio?

Advertisers were not slow to make the acquaintance of the broadcasting goose, and to appropriate their share of its golden eggs. A magazine or newspaper reader may deliberately let his eye slip over the "ads," if he is so inclined, but a radio "listener-in" is taken by surprise, and hears large amounts of gratuitous advertising, whether he wants to or not. In the earlier days of radio such announcements were usually of short duration, simple and concise. The listener understood, without any more ado, that a certain company had been presenting him with a program out of the kindness of its own heart. The listener was usually grateful, or at least did not cavil at this information.

But today advertising announcements over the radio have expanded to almost unbearable dimensions. The average layman, comfortably listening to an evening's program, is told at the end not only who the senders of that program are, and the name of the product which they manufacture, but also a thousand and one superfluous and-from his point of view - boring details.

The listener, however, has become canny. With the first sign of an overloaded advertising announcement he arises from his chair and crosses the room, grinning craftily, to turn the dial to another program. Or, if his radio is remote controlled, he can switch the program and grin craftily without rising from his chair.

In other words. the radio advertiser today is fast defeating his own purpose. He has become too greedy - too avaricious. He has lost sight of the principal object of broadcasting - the presentation of a program. He is on the way to becoming a megalomaniac. And he is demonstrating very poor psychology.

The broadcasters themselves, and a few advertisers, have mastered this psychology, as is evidenced by their programs in which a mere mention of the sponsorship is made. But the majority of advertisers follow one of two annoying methods - either the frequent breaking into a program with their announcements, or continual references to their own products woven into the program itself.

The general excellence of sponsored programs with their diversified presentations is undoubtedly responsible for the widespread acceptance of radio and its engineering development. But the whole thing is becoming too much like the old fairy story of the little girl who had to eat her way through a world of soup. It was very good soup, but there was too much of it. Our radio programs are presented by very good advertisers, but we have to hear too much about them, Direct advertising by broadcasters is ceasing to build good-will. Unless something is speedily done to remedy this situation, it is going to promote animosity and active dislike.

Where does the solution of this problem lie? Not with the listeners-in - they have already found their solution - turning the dial. Will it be necessary for the broadcasting stations to restrict and censor the advertising given them?

That would be unfortunate indeed, and should not be the case. No - in our opinion the solution lies with the advertisers themselves. It is time for them to summon their good sense and to make a careful survey of the ground on which they stand. If radio advertising is to regain a position of value for both the advertisers and listeners-in, it must be censored by the advertiser himself! He must learn the psychological value and increased effectiveness of short and simple announcements. He must realize that he cannot pamper and overstuff his pretty goose, or there will be no more golden eggs.


Stuart C. Mahanay



Posted May 25, 2020
(updated from original post on 5/2/2014)

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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