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Radio and Television Regulation: Broadcast Technology in the United States, 1920-1960 Hardcover – 27 Sep 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (27 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080186450X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801864506
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,936,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


[ Radio and Television Regulation] is a solidly grounded scholarship of the highest quality.

(Jeremy Harris Lipschultz Journal of Radio Studies)

Slotten's study is a valuable addition to the historical literature on broadcasting (or more broadly the regulation of technology in society). It is both well researched and well written.

(Christopher H. Sterling Journal of American History)

Another soild contribution to the literature on the development of U.S. broadcasting. Slotten's research into the complex process of broadcast regulation is meticulous.

(Jason Loviglio Enterprise and Society)

The depiction of the manifold tensions that exist between technocratic and nontechnocratic views concerning the function of public policy institutions infuse the book's narrative with a freshness and originality that make it a welcome and valuable addition to what has been an otherwise lackluster list of titles typically more intent on describing the rules and regulations that govern broadcast media than in examining their revealing and illuminating origins.

(Michael C. Keith Historian)

Analyzing the complex interplay of of the factors forming public policy for radio and television broadcasting, and taking into account the ideological traditions that framed these controversies, the author sheds light on the rise of the regulatory state.

(International Review of Administrative Sciences)

Not since the writings of Marshall McLuhan have knowledge shapers in the broadcast field shown interest in technological determinism... Finally Hugh R. Slotten redeems a technological perspective.

(Craig Allen American Historical Review)

A rigorous and thoughtful study of American broadcast regulation is always a valuable contribution. Hugh Slotten's new book succeeds admirably in this regard.

(James Schwoch Business History Review)

Slotten's work usefully augments the body of literature concerned with telecommunications and mass media law, policy, and regulation.

(William J. White Technology and Culture)

Slotten effectively uses published primary sources and unpublished archives to discuss the complex interactions between engineers and policy-makers in the United States. The scope of the book is excellent and covers decisions over a forty-year period involving four major technologies (AM radio, monochrome television, FM radio, and color television) that defined the broadcast industry until the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 1996.

(Ronald KlineCornell University, author of Consumers in the Country and Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist)

About the Author

Hugh R. Slotten is a postdoctoral fellow in the History of Science Department at Harvard University. He is the author of Patronage, Practice, and the Culture of American Science.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
During the months soon after the Westinghouse Company's establishment of KDKA in Pittsburgh, a boom in radio swept the nation. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Concise study of the government and technology 16 Mar. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Hugh Slotten, a postdoctoral fellow in History at Harvard, has explored the public debates surrounding the adoption of several broadcasting technologies, including AM and FM radio and black-and-white and color television in the U.S. Federal agencies most concerned with their regulation, beginning with the Federal Radio Commission in 1927 and continuing to the Federal Communications Commission of the 1930s to the 1960s. Slotten's book explores the complex relationships between government and industry, the importance of key individuals in the government, and the influence of political ideologies as they related to policy formation at the dawn of broadcasting. Along the way, he reveals much about the creation of the "regulatory state" that that defined the communications industries in the 20th century. The book's chapters are ordered chronologically and treat key episodes in the history of broadcast regulation. Chapter one treats the formative years of the radio industry and the creation of the first federal regulatory agencies, focusing on the role of engineer and future president Herbert Hoover in the process. He then moves on to show how regulation contributed to the stunning commercial success of broadcasting and radio networks, despite the Great Depression. Some readers may be surprised to learn that television was being touted as the "next big thing" even in the 1920s, and Slotten analyzes the way TV regulatory policy emerged well before the technology itself was ready for deployment. The maturation of both the broadcasting industry and the government's regulatory and standards-setting mechanisms is detailed in a chapter on the introduction of FM broadcasting, along with an in-depth analysis of the role of technical knowledge and expertise in the policy process. By the time television re-emerged after being delayed by the Depression and World War II, the FCC had grown aware that the technical expertise needed to make informed regulatory decisions often relied on uncertain, incomplete or highly biased knowledge. This, and the fact that the agency was now less likely than ever to make decisions that would threaten entrenched commercial interests, led them to delay the introduction of UHF television, limiting its success as a competitor to VHF (channels 2-13). By about 1950, the FCC had hired its own technical expertise, and was less likely to rely on the opinions of (presumably biased) industry personnel. This was a key factor in the decision to reverse an early ruling that promoted the color TV system invented at CBS, which used a large, rotating disk fitted with optical filters to create the illusion of color. The FCC now pushed for a color standard that was more in keeping with its new face; a standard that protected entrenched interests in the black-and-white TV field (the new color standard was backward-compatible with black-and-white) while promoting what was seen as the next logical step in TV technology. The resulting color standard, while criticized today as obsolete, nonetheless stood the test of time for half a century. Slotten's work is a well-researched yet brief survey of a complex subject, and it should be closely read by those interested in the ways that federal agencies simultaneously nurture and reign in new communications technologies.
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