American Broadcasting and American Identities, 1920-1950

Jan 01, 2013 | by
  • Description

My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in August 2013 was designed to contribute to my current book-length project analyzing how manifestations of national, regional, and local identity shaped reactions to radio programming from the 1920s through the 1940s. Prior to my research at the RAC, my emphasis had been on programs deemed "foreign" or "unAmerican." These programs might have originated from abroad, such as those programs that crossed into the U.S. from neighboring Mexico or Cuba. At other times, a program garnering a hostile reaction might have been broadcast from a U.S. station, such as a program delivered in a foreign language. The reaction against "foreign" radio might even come from Americans abroad in response to programs heard over another country's airwaves. Many listeners recorded their judgments of these types of programs in the volumes of letters they wrote to stations, networks, newspapers, and government officials. Whatever the origins of the offending program, listeners reached judgments about international broadcasting after "filtering" its content through a constellation of existing personal values, beliefs, and assumptions that defined who they were. I argue that in the case of broadcasts or radio policies deemed "un-American," identity emerged as a prominent filter through which one engaged that content, particularly when a listener reluctantly encountered some presumably foreign program.