Europe's Air and Ours


THERE is far too much promiscuous condemning — I think — of governmental broadcasting. Equally, there is far too much promiscuous sneering at private broadcasting. Each system has its merits. Each system has its inherent and inevitable disadvantages. Life would be too simple if we had to choose only between the all-good and the all-bad. Providence has accordingly searchingly decreed that we shall choose between the bad-good and the good-bad by a mere margin of debatable discrimination and of difficult preference.

That both private broadcasting and governmental broadcasting are burdened with disadvantages is clear enough to the observant transatlantic traveler. Private broadcasting is tempted toward accommodating itself, for instance, to all levels of popular taste, including those inhabited by the least developed portions of the population. Governmental broadcasting, on the other hand, is tempted toward accommodating itself (again for instance) to the temper of persons in power and to the defense of existing institutions against all elements of opposition and of proposed unconventional progress.

The one certainty shared by governmental broadcasting and by private broadcasting alike is that they will arouse discontent.

American private broadcasting gives a more hospitable welcome to contending and contradictory schools of political and economic thought than any other broadcasting known at present to the world. American critics exist, nevertheless, who perceive in American radio too much ‘censorship,’ too much ‘control.’

British governmental broadcasting, meanwhile, has most certainly labored zealously toward improving British popular taste in music. Are the British critics, then, silenced? Not at all. In London last spring I picked up the April 2 number of that vigilant and advanced British periodical, the New Statesman and Nation. I observed in it an article signed ‘Critic.’ Instantly I proceeded to read it. I felt sure that it would contain something about radio, and I was not disappointed. At the bottom of the first column I encountered the following words: -

The British Broadcasting Corporation at one moment looked as if it might maintain some standards. It even gave the man in the street, every other evening, for about an hour, the chance of learning the difference between first-rate and tenth-rate music. But the danger is now past. Those responsible for the British Broadcasting Corporation programmes now see to it that a great piece of music by a great composer is rarely included.

I must admit I was a bit shocked. I had not expected a criticism quite so comprehensive and devastating. On reflection, however, I simply saw that British critics are like American critics. They may think that foreign pastures are all green grass; they with certainty know that domestic pastures are full of weeds.

Myself, I am both a critic of broadcasting and a participant in it. As a critic, I could say that American private broadcasting is audacious and childish, and that European governmental broadcasting is timid and senile. I could make other epigrams, too, about the contrasting systems, with equal truth and with equal falseness and equal superciliousness. As a participant in broadcasting, contrariwise, I am condemned to a moderation resulting from experience. From experience I realize and recognize the almost insurmountable difficulties separating the operators of any broadcasting system, private or governmental, from an arrival at perfect programmes.

My special field in broadcasting is public affairs. I cannot pretend that I am peculiarly qualified to estimate the programmes of Europe and of the United States in the field of what is specifically called ‘entertainment.’ In that field I permit myself just one remark.

Every country, generally speaking, puts on the air the sort of ‘entertainment’ that historical circumstances, irrespective of the air, have developed for it. It is not governmental broadcasting, it is Germany, that fills the German air with reminiscences of the tender folk-song strains of ‘Kehr i’ ein, mein Schatz, bei dir’ rather than with variations upon the elated barn-dance rhythms of ‘Turkey in the Straw.’ It is not governmental broadcasting, it is England, that gives to the British air so strong a flavor of the English tradition of witty drawing-room comedy. It is not governmental broadcasting, it is France, that penetrates the French air with a ‘Gastronomic Hour’ in which the cooking of a veal chop is detailed by a sensitively literary man in the vibrant language of a prose poem. Similarly — though on the other side of the screen — it is not private broadcasting, it is the United States itself, that enlivens the American air with the world’s most amusing comedians and with the world’s largest wealthattracted assemblage of eminent musicians.

It is true that in private broadcasting there is inherently a stronger streak of originality. It is true that in governmental broadcasting there is negatively a slenderer streak of vulgarity. Dominantly, nevertheless, each country gets in radio ‘entertainment’ a fairly faithful reflection of its own civilization.

This conclusion is sustained by an observation of the situation in France. France has private broadcasting and governmental broadcasting both. The ‘entertainment’ programmes from the French private stations and from the French governmental stations are far from profoundly dissimilar. Their variability is much less remarkable than their identicalness — their identicalness of Frenchness.


In the field of public affairs a quite different approach to international radio criticism is necessary. All countries equally have public affairs, governmental problems, political controversies. Whatever their divergent racial and national qualities may be in the arts and in the amenities of life, they all possess populations of human beings who — even if Aristotle had never said it — have always been, now are, and always will be, ‘political animals.’

These animals require education. We speak of education under many labels. We speak of cultural education. We speak of vocational education. We speak of civic education. If education can be thus subdivided, then civic education is assuredly one of its most desirable and decisive branches.

One might adopt even stronger language in discoursing upon civic education. One might adopt the language of Plato. In the first book of his Laws he remarks: —

We call one man educated and another uneducated, although the uneducated man may sometimes be very well educated indeed in the calling of a sea captain or of a trader or the like. But we are not speaking of education in that narrow sense. We are speaking of that other education which makes a man eagerly pursue the ideal perfection of citizenship. That is the only education which, in our view, deserves the name.

Plato lived in a city-state amply experienced in the processes of democracy. He knew vividly that those processes are atrophied or perverted into economic injustice and into social failure unless refreshed continuously by an informed and competent civic spirit.

It may be alleged that everywhere to-day there is social failure and that nowhere is there a civic spirit adequately informed and adequately competent. I should myself be indeed disposed to grant to that allegation a certain considerable percentage of truth. The question would remain: What are the contributions of European broadcasting, in comparison with American broadcasting, to the vital need thus indicated?

In answer to that question I should begin by saying: —

European broadcasting to-day still displays, on the whole, a certain superiority in volume of programmes dealing with the academic background of citizenship. American broadcasting, on the other hand, continues to display to-day, on the whole, a clear superiority in volume and in vigor of programmes dealing with the instant practice of citizenship.

I was in Germany last March during the week preceding the first balloting in the German presidential election. The German broadcasting organization is dominatingly owned by the Post Office Department of the German Government. I cannot say that it suffers from bureaucratic sloth. It begins broadcasting at quarter to six in the morning with weather hints to farmers. It continues to broadcast till well after midnight. Its officials are conscientious, energetic, and, beyond dispute, educated. They just naturally radiate education — academic education. They radiate it to school children, in some twenty thousand schools; and they radiate it to all the adults that can endure it, and Germans are very enduring.

I heard an admirably dramatized German school broadcast of the voyage of Columbus. It began:‘Hello! Hello! Are there any youngsters of from seven to fourteen listening to me? I’m the steersman of the Santa Maria in the harbor of Palos. To-morrow morning, you know, we shall sail out into the unknown ocean of the West.’ It was a broadcast beautiful, arresting, grippingly instructive. German school broadcasting does not duplicate the pedagogy of the classroom. It strives to supplement it with artistry.

Toward adults the German broadcasting authorities are even more authoritative. In the week preceding the presidential election day of March 13 they gave air lessons to adults in the speaking of German, of Spanish, of French. They gave them air lectures on, for example, ‘Goethe and Natural Science,’ ‘The Discovery of Electromagnetic Induction,’ ‘The Social Question in Industrial Relations,’‘The Departure from the Gold Standard,’‘Cartels and Monopolies in the World Crisis,’and ‘The Universal Empire Idea, the Great Power Idea, and the Small State Idea in World History,’They even produced in that week a broadcast by a learned scholastic analyst on ‘The Psychology of Voting’ and a dialogue-discussion-broadcast among youthful amateur talkers on ‘Should We Young Men Be Interested in Politics?’


These performances in the background of political action were profuse and meritorious. I waited, though, for the foreground. I waited for the fulfillment of all this civic educational preparation. I waited for the claims and counterclaims of the political parties. I held my breath to hear the ultimate test: the arguments instantly delivered by the electioneering contenders and the choices instantly revealed to the wavering electors.

What I heard was education only on one theory — on the theory that education means what I fear it too often means in Europe: the attempted pouring of a nation’s mentality into moulds admired and desired by its rulers.

There were four presidential candidates: Hindenburg, Duesterberg, Hitler, Thaelmann. Hindenburg already inhabited the presidential palace. He was thereupon the only presidential candidate admitted to the German air! A speech by him was broadcast on Wednesday afternoon. It was again broadcast, from a phonograph record, on Saturday evening. On Sunday the German radio listeners, thus educated in the speaking personalities of the presidential contestants for their suffrages, went to the polls. They had heard, it is true, one other statesman besides Hindenburg. They had heard Bruening. A speech by him from the Berlin Sportpalast was broadcast on Friday evening. It was, of course, in support of Hindenburg.

And that was the total of the German electioneering combat on the German air during the first round of the presidential balloting this year.

During the second and final round, four weeks later, Hitler addressed a letter to the German broadcasting authorities pointing out to them a certain clause in the public charter under which they operate. This clause enjoins them to ‘political impartiality.’ It is the phrase always inserted into all projected plans for safeguarded governmental broadcasting. ‘Political impartiality’! In the name of political impartiality Hitler demanded access to the German air.

The broadcasting authorities consulted the Minister of the Department of the Interior of the German Government. They were then obliged to inform Hitler that the Minister of the Department of the Interior had now decreed that politics should henceforth be excluded from the German air, during the remainder of the period of presidential politics!

Nevertheless, on the Saturday evening before the final balloting, another speech was made by Bruening. He again, of course, supported Hindenburg. The Hitlerites rather naturally called the speech political. Government officials denied that it was political. They said that it was governmental!

This series of one-sided events cannot be charged against the immediate operators of German broadcasting. In the field of public affairs they are not their own masters. Outside that field they broadcast inventively, courageously. Inside that field they broadcast tamely, submissively. I do not reproach them. I belong to a country in which postmasters must help the persons in power. I am not in a position to look down upon a country in which broadcasters must.

In virtually all European countries they must. Sometimes they must do it negatively. Sometimes they must do it positively.

The positive method I have illustrated out of Germany. Applied to the United States, it would have made our 1932 presidential campaign consist solely of a speech by Mr. Hoover, two speeches by Mr. Stimson, and a phonographic repetition of the speech by Mr. Hoover!

The negative method I could illustrate out of countries such as Austria, where, in general, no political broadcasting whatsoever is permitted — none. This negative method has its distinctive value to the persons in power. It may stifle government propaganda, but it equally stifles opposition criticism. It produces silence. Silence advantages the status quo.


In France during this year’s elections for the Chamber of Deputies there was a curious mingling of the positive and the negative methods, conjoined with a certain stroke of astounding political personal generosity. It was at any rate thought astounding — in France.

Tardieu was President of the Council of Ministers. He was thus in political control of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and Telephones. That Department, in turn, was (and is) in control of all the political manifestations of all French broadcasting, private as well as public. Tardieu, however, was magnanimous. He announced that he would permit the broadcasting of a speech by his chief political rival, Herriot. He announced it as a special personal individual favor!

Tardieu had already taken the air. Now Herriot took the air. Then Tardieu took the air again, repeatedly, to reply to Herriot. Then five or six of Tardieu’s fellow ministers in the cabinet of the reigning government took the air, also to reply to Herriot. And then the listeners voted. If some of them veered toward Herriot, it was not through any governmental failure to pack the governmental French air on behalf of Tardieu.

In Europe, in general, the governmental air is the private kennel of the political top-dog. It is eminently so in free democratic France; for it must not be imagined that tickets to the French air during the last French election were issued undiscriminatingly even to the supporters of Tardieu.

There was an ardent Tardieu supporter by the name of Kerillis, a candidate for the Chamber of Deputies. He had a bold idea. He proposed to buy time on the air of some of the little private French radio stations and proposed to use this time for talks by ordinary non-cabinet, non-ministerial advocates of Tardieu’s policies. He even started to do it. He lasted just three or four days. Then a ministerial order stopped him; and the stations were reduced to their previous and permanent rôle of transmitting political speeches only when of ministerial authorization and of cabinet origin.

An imitation of this method would have cleared the American air this year considerably! It would have given us in our present presidential campaign a speech by President Hoover, a speech by Governor Roosevelt, several additional speeches by President Hoover, a half-dozen supplementary speeches by members of President Hoover’s cabinet, and then no more speeches! It would have ‘ protected the public ’ — as they say in Europe — against radio orations by such critics of President Hoover as Senator Robinson, Senator Barkley, Senator Wagner, Senator Dill, Senator Harrison, Senator Pittman, Speaker Garner, Representative Rainey, Representative McDuffie, Representative Crisp, Senator Shipstead, Governor Ritchie, William Randolph Hearst, Charles Michelson, John J. Raskob, Alfred E. Smith, Jouett Shouse, Claude G. Bowers — et id genus omne, comprising a whole etheric milky way of American anti-Hooveritic radio studio stars.

It would also have ‘protected’ President Hoover against having his policies interpreted to the radio public by any regular Republicans except those appointed to administrative office in his own cabinet family. It would have ’freed’ the American air of all such Republican stalwarts as Senator Watson, Senator Jones, Senator Dickinson, Senator Reed, Senator Bingham, Representative Snell, Representative Crowther, Representative Treadway, Representative Wood, Representative Tilson, and Nicholas Murray Butler — especially Nicholas Murray Butler.

In other words, most seriously, our whole spacious and protracted quadrennial school of political education, accompanying our election of a President, would in radio have been shrunk to a scope so slender — and wrenched to a quality so partisan — as to have lost all true comprehensive comparative educational value whatsoever.


Very well. Let us thereupon, in search of ideals closer to ours, proceed from France to that weathered land of liberty, Britain.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is very frank and free in its criticisms of American radio. In a recent number of its Radio Times it says that American radio is ‘shackled to its advertisers,’ and that it consequently almost totally ignores the musical preferences of those of its auditors who happen to be people of good taste.

The British are sometimes thought to be bluntly rude. They are not. They are only directly honest; and I applaud honesty — because I love to reciprocate it.

I have already quoted from a British periodical of high good taste to indicate that in Britain there exists an opinion of British radio music precisely identical with the opinion which the British Broadcasting Corporation entertains of American radio music. I repeat, however, that I am not especially qualified to enter into any disputation regarding ‘entertainment ’ programmes. I revert to my own specialty of public affairs.

British broadcasting, unlike most European continental broadcasting, is not directly and minutely under political control. Very Britishly, it is in theory one thing and in practice quite another.

In theory the British PostmasterGeneral is the dictator of British radio. He licenses the British Broadcasting Corporation to have a monopoly of all British broadcasting. In the charter through which he thus licenses it he explicitly declares: ‘The PostmasterGeneral may by notice require the British Broadcasting Corporation to refrain from transmitting any broadcast matter specified in such notice.’

He also, in that same charter, explicitly declares: ‘The British Broadcasting Corporation shall transmit any matter which any department of His Majesty’s Government may require to be broadcast.’

That is the theory; it may some day be the practice. It is not the present practice. The present practice is Sir John Reith. He is the head of the British Broadcasting Corporation. He is its Director-General. His successor, some day, may be a man who will ask the Postmaster-General when he may breathe into the microphone, and how. Sir John does not. Why? Why, just simply because he is Sir John, and won’t. You never know a British institution by examining its law. You have to meet its man.

Sir John is in practice the effectively absolute autocrat of the whole British air. He wields, substantially, the centralized, omnipotent, benevolent radio power that some progressives among us think ought to be wielded. He should, of course, in accordance with that thought, be a progressive. He is in fact a true-blue, conscientious, intense conservative. His social and political outlook is approximately that of Secretary of the Treasury Mills — only much less roving and much more raptly fixed.

Sir John has openly denounced the demagogic heresy that in radio the public should be given what it wants. He gives it, overwhelmingly, what a Scotchman after the heroic order (and orderingness) of John Knox — namely, Sir John himself—thinks personally (and uniquely) that it ought to have. He thinks that it ought to have a great many elevating talks. One is impressed by the multitudinousness — and magnitudinousness — of these talks. Last September Sir John began a series of them under the title ‘This Changing World.’ It covered Industry and Trade, Literature and Art, Science, the Modern State, and Education and Leisure. It covered those topics through speakers of the highest academic cultural eminence.

They were no more eminent, perhaps, than the American speakers who now address the American air audience on such topics; but I am obliged to admit that they spoke much oftener, and also that they spoke — many of them — with a much more developed radio technique. The British Broadcasting Corporation takes the British college professor who is about to approach the microphone and technically trains him for it. It goes a great deal further in that direction than we have yet gone in the United States — and advantageously so. Sir John’s scholars who delivered his talks on ‘This Changing World’ were quite well radiobroken. And, as talkers, they were certainly permitted to be talkative. Between them they talked half an hour every evening of the week for twentyfour weeks. Sir John believes in education, in academic education, voluminously.


But we must then ask: How does academic education, anywhere, get translated into civic action? Let us answer realistically. Academic education gets translated into civic action through public men, officeholders, politicians, statesmen, men actually engaged in public affairs. There is no other way.

Let us examine the last British election period. What British public men was the British Broadcasting Corporation willing to admit to the British air? Only those who officially represented the reigning authorities within each British political group. Baldwin for the standard National Conservatives, MacDonald and Snowden for the standard National Laborites, Samuel and Simon for the standard National Liberals, Henderson and Clynes and Graham for the standard old-style Laborites, Lloyd George for the standard old-style Liberals! Nine veteran jockeys from the established stables, all bearing the brands of the managers and ’whips’ of those stables, and then no more political mental racing in that British election!

Other elements pined for the air. They were refused it. The Welsh Nationalists: No! The Scotch Nationalists, relying perhaps upon Sir John’s Scotchness but underestimating his conscientiousness and impartiality: No! The Left Wing of the Labor Party: No! The illustrious Winston Churchill: No! Other members of Parliament, distinguished and distinctive, but sitting on the back benches of the House of Commons and ignominiously called (in British parlance) ‘private members’: No! Nothing unofficial. Nothing un-standard.

Let us imagine applying that principle to the United States. It would debar from our air, at national election times, virtually all of the Senators and Representatives and non-officeholding American public men already mentioned in this article.

But let us imagine its application further, and faint not. A certain American public man approaches the Sir John Reith of a future governmental monopolistic United States Broadcasting Corporation. Our Sir John says to him: —

‘You speak for the Democratic Party?’

‘I unequivocally do not!’

‘Oh! For the Republican Party?’

‘ Most emphatically no! ’

‘But, surely, for some group possessing an official organization which you represent?’

‘Sir John, I don’t represent official organizations. I tell them!'

‘ For whom ? ’


‘Yourself? Sorry, Senator Borah,’ our American Sir John Reith would have to say. ‘Frightfully sorry, but you can’t get to a microphone in this country.'

For my own part, as a ‘commercial radio ’ representative, accustomed to run for a microphone whenever that anticommercial character, Senator Borah, whistles for it, I should almost like to see the ‘responsible radio’ system of Sir John Reith introduced into this country — for just a minute — merely in order to hear the outcries from our ‘liberal elements’ deprived thereupon of the incessant performances of their favorite champions on our turbulent and chaotic American wave lengths.


The British Broadcasting Corporation, under Sir John Reith, ‘responsibly’ requires that an election-time political radio speaker shall officially represent a political party possessing numerous seats in Parliament. The American Socialist Party possesses no seats in the American Congress. Its presidential candidate, Mr. Norman Thomas, would thereupon be ineligible to the air. Under our American ‘commercial’ system Mr. Thomas was broadcast from Milwaukee, during the Socialist Convention of this year, and was subsequently, within a month, broadcast again from New York.

The difference is precisely the difference between being ‘commercial’ and being ‘responsible.’ Sir John Reith, however personal he may be, and however independent, in his management of the British Broadcasting Corporation, has a ‘responsibility’ to the governmental ownership — to the state organism — behind him. He must therefore proceed cautiously, he must give consideration to reasons of state, in admitting guests to his bureaucratic and authoritative ether.

He must, for instance, himself choose the university professors who on that ether will dispense academic political education. This he does, of course, largely through his subordinates. They are persons — generally speaking — of excellent scholastic attainments on their own account. They on that point are superior — generally speaking — to the corresponding officials in American broadcasting organizations. They choose their academic guest speakers proficiently. They drill them proficiently and enthusiastically. The ensuing performances have merit of substance, and merit of presentation, of a high order. They remain, nevertheless, the performances, not of Britain’s academic world speaking for itself, but of selected academicians put on the stage — and permitted their lines — by a centralized radio directorship and dictatorship.

I doubt if the academicians of the United States would care for it — very long. They are not accustomed to being ‘directed’ very much by their radio hosts. On one of our chains there is now getting presented a series of programmes entitled ‘You and Your Government.’ The radio company sponsoring it takes it for presentation from the ‘Committee on Civic Education by Radio,’which in turn is an offshoot of the ‘National Advisory Committee on Radio in Education.’ The chairman of the Committee on Civic Education by Radio is chairman of it precisely because he is chairman, to begin with, of the Policy Committee of the American Political Science Association, the representative association of our American university professors of political science. He and his committee choose the speakers, assign to them their subjects, schedule them for the microphone. The radio company furnishes the microphone and the telephone cables to the receiving and sending stations. That is its sole duty. That is its sole ‘responsibility.’ It aims only to let the American political-science academic world say its say.

There has been criticism of this series of talks — just one criticism. Conservative elements claim that the talkers ‘lean to the Left.’ They deplore the presence among these talkers of such ’Left-ists’ as Charles E. Merriam, Charles A. Beard, Stuart Chase, John Dewey. The radio company is not concerned. Under its theory of operation it takes the American academic world as it is. It lets it orate as its spirit may move it to orate. It has no ‘responsibility’— except that of lending facilities of utterance to American academic thought as America itself has formed it.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is necessarily in a different attitude. It was obliged lately to ask for the resignation of its Director of Talks. She was admittedly a lady of brilliant mentality and of perfect professional competency. The difficulty was that she was charged with precisely what is charged against our American ‘You and Your Government’ radio series. She was charged with ‘leaning to the Left.’ She had to go.

It could not be otherwise. The lady, it is true, had her conscience. Sir John Reith, however, also had his. And the Government had its. Sir John’s and the Government’s were ’responsible.’ They had to ’protect’ the British public. They had to ’protect’ it against — in general, and by and large — the non-arrived, the non-established.

Every governmental radio organization, no matter how constituted, and no matter how operated, must lean in the end toward accepted and dominant national political practice and political theory. Hence its timidity, its demonstrable timidity, not only in domestic politics, but also — and most especially — in world affairs.


Sir John Reith, who is always welcome on this side of the Atlantic for his greatness as a broadcaster and for his greatness as a man, has not hesitated manfully to argue with our President on behalf of the governmentalization of the American broadcasting industry. He believes in that governmentalization for apparently not only national but international reasons. I am sure, accordingly, that he and my other personally very dear friends in the British Broadcasting Corporation will not be offended if I take them to a Britishly frank comparison between their endeavors and our American endeavors in the field of international relationships.

I represented an American private broadcasting company at Geneva, Switzerland, last February and March, during the first period of the Disarmament Conference. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s official motto is: ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation.’ Its representative at Geneva was Mr. Vernon Bartlett. He is also a League of Nations official. He cannot, therefore, very well criticize the League; but he can very well indeed, if he is so instructed, cause nations to speak peace unto nations. He is an admirably competent broadcaster.

During the first period of the Disarmament Conference, Mr. Bartlett put on seven programmes from Geneva to Britain. Five were by himself, one was by Mr. Arthur Henderson, one was by the Archbishop of York. Not one was by any non-British foreigner.

Meanwhile, during that first period of the Disarmament Conference, I was transmitting to the United States the voices and the views of Mr. Yen of China, of Mr. Sato of Japan, of Sir George Perley of Canada, of Mr. Grandi of Italy, of Mr. Tardieu of France, of Mr. Bruening of Germany, of Mr. Henderson of Britain, of Mr. Thomas of Britain.

The American private air is very open to authoritative political foreigners. The European governmental air is open to them extremely charily.

Let me illustrate further from Geneva. All European countries of any importance have radio systems. Seven of them (outside Switzerland) took broadcasts from Geneva during the Disarmament Conference’s first period — only seven. Britain, as I have already related, heard no foreigner. Austria and Sweden likewise heard no foreigner. Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands got themselves into hearing a foreigner through taking the opening speech of Mr. Henderson, the President of the Conference. They thereafter heard no other foreigner.

France alone, among the seven European countries caring to receive the international proceedings of Geneva last February and March, heard more than one foreigner. It heard numerous foreigners; but I must candidly note that it heard them at their most innocuous. It heard them making routine speeches from the Disarmament Conference floor. It did not hear them as we Americans heard them, personally epitomizing their whole national philosophies.

I should like to add one last statistical observation from Geneva. The total number of broadcasts, during the Disarmament Conference’s first period, from Geneva to all European countries (outside Switzerland), combined, was forty-one. The total number of broadcasts, during that same period, from Geneva to the United States alone, through the American company which I represented, was thirty-eight; and there was simultaneously present at Geneva another American radio company broadcasting to the United States at the rate usually of two programmes a week.

I must confess that I sometimes deeply resent the European charge that American radio is dedicated solely to programmes of so-called ‘commercialization.’ When American radio meets European radio in the only field of possible direct comparison — the international field — it is not European radio, it is American radio, that proves its superior interest in non-commercial public affairs and in instant world-wide political international education.


We come thus to the ultimate paradox of the whole matter. I shall try to express it in its full, final form.

European governmental broadcasting, which in theory might be concentrated upon governmental problems, is in fact dedicated peculiarly to the promoting of private individual culture. American private broadcasting, which in theory might be mindful only of the affairs of private life, is in fact especially superior in advancing the copious and comprehensive discussion of immediate governmental policies and solutions.

Governmental broadcasting does more for man as home student. Private broadcasting does more for man as active citizen.

That is the paradox, and it is ineradicable.

Private broadcasting, since it is supported by advertisements, must give to those advertisements a certain number of minutes which a taxsupported radio organization can devote to cultural objectives.

Governmental broadcasting, since it is supported by the state, must be careful not to offend the state and must therefore, while it escapes ‘commercialization,’ embrace ‘governmental responsibility’ — and a censorship far beyond any ‘control’ known among us.

I have introduced a multitude of European statesmen to the American air. Never have I asked them, and never have I been asked by my organization in America to ask them, what they were going to say. They were responsible men; and, on the license of that responsibility, they spoke without any attempted check whatsoever.

Relatively seldom, I must admit, does a European broadcasting organization reciprocate our American hospitality to European public personages. Occasionally, however, I have introduced an American statesman to a European air audience. In each instance I have been obliged to submit the text of his remarks, beforehand, to foreign governmental or quasigovernmental agents for scrutiny and approval.

It is nonsense to say that radio is necessarily an agency for civic good. Radio, monopolistically controlled for the purposes of persons in power, can be made the most effective agency ever devised for the enslavement of the mass mentality of a nation.

My thesis, then, is simple. I will concede that European governmental broadcasting generally exceeds American private broadcasting in the potential cultivation of good taste — by a graceful margin. I will contend that American private broadcasting exceeds European governmental broadcasting, in any European country, in the potential cultivation of free citizenship — by a vital margin.

It is for everybody, according to his own nature, to decide which margin he prefers.