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May 1937

Television and Radio
by Gilbert Seldes

Sometime in the middle of 1938, television sets may be put on sale in the United States …

The effect of television on radio will be so gradual that we may be able to preserve whatever in radio is desirable … Because of radio, more of us took setting-up exercises in the morning, with possible improvement in our health … Those who could not read found a new interest; oratory was restored to its ancient glory in Presidential campaigns; the difference between the city and the country was made less, vaudeville artists got jobs, book sales increased; farmers knew the price paid for stock and grain in Chicago and Minneapolis … millions of people, totally indifferent to social movements and international affairs and totally unhabituated to reading about such things, have become aware of them through news broadcasts and commentary …

It is desirable for us to know what price we have paid for the creation of this incomparable engine of social influence: we have certainly created a habit of almost indiscriminate, almost apathetic listening; through the air has come a really incalculable number of stupidities; much that is trite and tasteless comes with what is intelligent and bright. A critic of society would have a delicate job to determine how far radio has corrupted and how far improved the public taste, and the very existence of a power so great as that of radio seems menacing to many observers …

The audience which television will create will be more attentive and, if properly handled, more suggestible even than the audience of radio.

Volume 159, No. 5, pp. 531–541

Read the full article here.