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Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922-52 Paperback – 15 Apr 1997

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This work looks at the way radio programming influenced and was influenced by the United States of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, tracing the history of the medium from its earliest years through the advent of television. It places the development of radio within the context of the turmoils of the 1920s - immigration and urbanization, the rise of mass consumer culture, and the changing boundaries of the public and private spheres. Early practices and structures - the role of the announcer, the emergence of program forms from vaudeville, minstrel shows and the concert stage - are examined. Central to the study is a discussion of programmes and their relations to popular cultural understandings of race, ethnicity and gender in the United States of this era. The book explores "Amos 'n Andy" and its negotiations of white racial tensions, and "The rise of the Goldbergs" and its concern with ethnic assimilation. It reflects upon the daytime serials - the first soap operas - arguing that these much-disparaged programmes provided a space in which women could discuss conflicted issues of gender.

Also explored are industry practices, considering the role of advertising agencies and their areas of conflict and co-operation with the emerging networks as well as the impact of World War II on the "mission" of radio.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A fun... and insightful historical look at radio 10 Aug. 2001
By DJ Joe Sixpack - Published on
Format: Paperback
An outstanding, if slightly academic, homage to the glory days of live radio. Hilmes is both a fan of the medium and a critic of its development, paying special attention to radio's role in shaping American national identity. The presentation of women and various ethnic groups is one of her main concerns, but Hilmes isn't a mere PC grind; she also explores the nuances of supposed stereotypes, analyzing the degree to which these characterizations both shaped and reflected the world around them. It's fascinating to read an account of a seemingly "dead" medium... She does a great job capturing the flavor of the times, even though most of us will never be able to hear the shows she mentions. Hilmes draws upon several major media libraries, as well as extensive governmental and academic archives, mixing bureaucratic, sociological and pop cultural perspectives. Of particular interest to readers in the present day, where multinational conglomerates duke it out over the vanishing frontier of post-dotcom economy, and the FCC and Congress have sharply curtailed freedom of expression (under the guise of protecting intellectual property), is the older, earlier story of how the US government and the budding broadcast industry squelched the amatuer broadcasters of the 'teens and '20s. In some ways it's a side note to Himes' wider social concerns, but it couldn't be more timely. Recommended reading!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Dry as old toast 31 Mar. 2013
By Michael Griffith - Published on
Format: Paperback
I may be out of practice at reading academic writing - it has been a while since college - but I found Radio Voices a chore to get through. The dry writing style within did nothing to help make the reading less of a frustrating challenge.

I'm tempted to give this book a 1-star review, but that would not be fair. I honestly respect the amount of information in Radio Voices and the research done by the author and anyone who helped her is impressive.

I can't help thinking that there could have been a better way to present that information, though.

I wish I had read the reviews of this book here before buying it.

(As an edit: One other reviewer mentioned the "polemic" present in several parts of Radio Voices. I, too, felt the political tone intruded on the subject a bit, but I was willing to let it slide in my reading, acknowledging and ignoring it for what it was.

I am glad someone else pointed this aspect of the writing out.}
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Decent History of early Radio 20 Feb. 2003
By Christopher J. Martin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Radio Voices is a decent look at radio from the early 1900s to 1952, although Hilmes mostly skirts any discussion of radio's decline after 1945.
She amply discusses the effects of early programs such as Amos 'n Andy which were based on minstrel shows. This discussion and the racial reasons behind them is quite interesting.
However, I think the book at many points turns from an interesting discussion into a polemic, and loses its way. She discusses the "ghettoization" of women programs to the daytime schedule. I think this really disrespects women listeners of the 1920s and 30s. Yes, many of them were at home and not out working like many men, but Hilmes discusses this topic in a tone that makes it sound like the daytime schedule was "second rate" when in fact it's the women who make the purchasing choices for most households, not the men who'd be listening more at night. The audience may have been smaller during the day than at night, but it doesn't mean it's less important and certainly shouldn't be referred to as "ghettoization".
Also she discusses in condesending tones the use of radio by the government and other interests to promote America's intervention in World War II. Like many post-Vietnam academics, it's obvious she likely falsely believes we should have stayed out of that war. It's really a shame she strays into a polemic on some of these topics. Otherwise, it would have been a great book.
Dry and Difficult 25 Feb. 2014
By Kelly - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this subject.
Books written on the yearly years of broadcasting in America can be entertaining and engaging - but this is not one of them.

I bought four books on this subject at the same time.
This one was the least appealing of the bunch.

The writing style fails to engage the reader.
It is so dry and uninteresting that it is very difficult to read through.

I cannot recommend this particular book. The other books Amazon offers on this subject are much better
A Must Read 24 Feb. 2007
By Sol A. Factor - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922-152 is a must read for those who wish to learn about this important period in our history. It is an excellent book for those who remember those wonderful days, and for those who want to learn what their parents or grandparents were talking about!
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