Selling the Shortwaves: Commercial Shortwave Broadcasting to Latin America, Propaganda, and the Limits of the "American System," 1920-1945.

Back to My Research

Home

    This online historical research project examines attempts by American commercial radio broadcasters to develop commercially sustained shortwave broadcasting directed toward listeners in Latin America during the 1930s and 1940s.  The project details the development of programming, the solicitation of advertising, relationships with listeners and radio executives in Latin American markets, and, perhaps most importantly, officials in the United States government who worked with the networks to achieve public policy objectives.  Radio emerged after World War I as a public interest for the US Government due to its vastly expanded foreign involvement after the war and the massive growth of American trade with Latin American nations.  However, due to the unique development of American radio, no state controlled broadcasting stations existed in the 1930s and the commercial networks, as part of their continual negotiation with the government over regulation and policy, asserted that they were capable of developing broadcasts that would both generate profit and serve the needs of government public information agendas.   As World War II began, however, government officials quickly realized that the commercial networks were not adequate for wartime needs and, after a period of subsidy and oversight, took over the system entirely.  This was the genesis of the "Voice of America" and the American government's involvement in international broadcasting of news and information by shortwave.

   Based on research in the NBC corporate records at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, government publications, magazine and newspaper articles and secondary scholarly work, this project attempts to outline the development of these policies and place them within the framework of the larger debate over government involvement in the "American System" of privately controlled, advertising supported broadcasting, as well as the propaganda and public information atmosphere of the late-1930s and 1940s.  Contact me for more information or to receive a copy of the paper that was presented at the AEJMC conference in 2003.

A version of this paper has been published in American Journalism 24:4 (Winter 2007): 127-148.

 

First Pages Read the first few pages of the paper online
Sources A complete list of sources used in the paper
Annotated Bibliography  Brief annotations for some of the more useful books and articles used in the paper

 

Back to My Research

Home