British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Is Everybody Listening?

Series

Series Name
The March of Time 13th Year

Issue

Issue No.
2
Date Released
Mar 1948
Length of issue (in feet)
1700
Stories in this Issue:
  1. 1Is Everybody Listening?

Story

Story No. within this Issue
1 / 1
Summary
The March of Time synopsis: An exposition of the commercially sponsored radio system of America is given in this month’s March of Time which in discussing the inevitable criticism levelled at the programmes questions whether the entertainment provided is but a reflection of the public’s taste. A convenient guide for sponsors, producers and performers alike is furnished by a nation-wide survey conducted under the direction of C.E. Hooper, whose findings, known as "Hooperatings", indicate that the public remains faithful to the same radio performers year after year, as witnessed by such perennial favourites as Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Edgar bergen, Fred Allen and commentator Walter Winchell.

In furnishing the American public with its listening fare, the four hundred independent stations and the one thousand network-affiliated stations alike are able to exist for only one reason - the advertising of commercial products. Spending an average of four hundred million dollars yearly, American industry sponsors more than half of all U.S. radio programmes, the balance consisting largely of "sustaining programmes" provided by the broadcasting companies out of the profits derived from commercial programmes. Yet, points out the March of Time, for every two dollars the sponsor spends, the listening public spends three - on radio sets, repairs and electric current. Since the "airways" are considered public property, the Federal Communications Commission is charged with the responsibility of protecting the people’s interests, and has the authority to grant or refuse licences for broadcasting stations, though in its thirteen years’ history only four new renewal applications have been refused. Pointing out radio’s failure to live up to its obligation to the public, a Commission report indicates that most U.S. stations are heavily overloaded with commercials, the chief offenders being some of the small stations guilty of giving thousands of programmes of recorded music and often sponsoring as many as fifteen different products in an hour’s broadcast.

While admitting that there is considerable need for improvement, the industry itself replies that it sends the public many noteworthy programmes which are too often overlooked in the general criticism of radio. As an example of commendable features, the broadcasters instance their discussion programmes in which studio audiences can join in the debating of serious controversial subjects; great musical talent is also available to the U.S. public via radio, and although a relatively small percentage of listeners tune in on classical music, the networks have spent millions of dollars to present artists like Toscanini; while the broadcasters point proudly to the complete radio coverage of sports events and to their news programmes - the most popular of any type of radio presentation. In contrast the critics cite the "soap operas" which occupy forty-eight per cent of daylight air time, and the many types of audience participation shows, and while admitting that the best of radio is wonderful, submit that the worst is moronic. The debate centres round commercial radio, for, argues the critic, while the sponsor picks the hour for the broadcast, selects the programme that he wants and eliminates whatever material he dislikes, he, in fact, exerts virtually complete control over what the public hears.
Researcher Comments
Produced in collaboration with Len Lye, according to the BFI Database. This story was included in Vol.14 No.1 of the US edition.
Keywords
Entertainment and leisure; Communications
Written sources
Monthly Film Bulletin   Vol.15 No.171 March 1948, p35.
Fielding, Raymond. The March of Time 1935-1951 (New York, 1978)   p288.
The March of Time Promotional Material   Lobby Card, Used for synopsis
Credits:
Production Co.
Time Inc.

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