EM 28: How Far Should the Government Control Radio? (1946)

How Far Should Government Control Radio?By Robert D. Leigh
Director, Commission on the Freedom of the Press
(Published January 1946)



Who Is It That Fills the Air with Radio Waves?

  • How many channels are there?
  • Who makes up the radio menu?

Does the Government Have to Act as a Radio Traffic Cop?

  • Party lines for everyone?
  • Radio traffic jam
  • Government regulation
  • The first radio traffic cop

How Does Federal Policing of the Air Waves Work?

  • Other radio users to watch
  • The major job
  • New applicants
  • Renewing a license
  • Checkrein on the networks
  • Newspapers and radio stations

Can the Radio Industry Police Itself Successfully?

  • Children and education
  • Religion and advertising
  • Politics and controversy

What Are Radio’s Basic Problems and Future Prospects?

  • Possible solutions in the future: FM
  • Subscription radio, television, and facsimile

What Solutions Have Other Nations Tried?

  • The British Broadcasting Corporation
  • The way of two dominions
  • What is at stake?

Discussion Leader

  • Organizing your discussion
  • Reading
  • Discussion techniques
  • Questions for discussion

For Further Reading


Sometimes it seems as though the life of the Brown family begins and ends with two noise boxes-a little one in a bedroom upstairs and a larger one in the living room downstairs. From the time the family gets up in the morning until the last light is turned out at night, these two are rarely quiet.

The first sounds out of them may be the combination music and patter of an "early bird" setting-up program that helps Betty Lou keep her schoolgirl figure in trim. Then it is the turn of the downstairs radio with the latest news headlines and the weather report while the Browns eat their breakfast.

After the children and her husband have gone for the day, Mrs. Brown tunes in a marketing program to hear the best buys in fresh vegetables and then switches to her favorite soap opera. The commercial announcements may provide several items for her shopping list. A health talk reminds her that young Jim hasn't been to the dentist in far too long. In mid-afternoon Jim himself comes in from school, grabs some cookies, and dashes upstairs to hear the ball game.

The two noise boxes really hit their peak in the evening hours. Before supper it's news again for Mr. Brown, a spine-tingling adventure story for Jim, and a jazz program for Betty Lou. After supper some friends come in to visit the Browns. They talk against a background of symphony music while upstairs the children listen to their favorite comedian.

Perhaps the family gets together again for a forum discussion or for a special broadcast from the White House. Perhaps a commentator comes on to discuss what the President has said, and Mr. Brown catches an idea he wants to talk over with the boys at the office. A play especially written for broadcasting and some soft "reading music" end the radio day for the Browns.

And for other families too?

The Browns' daily schedule is more or less typical for nine out of every ten families in America. Of the 37,000,000 households in the United States, 33,800,000 had at least one radio in 1944. For many people who do not do much reading-especially those with little formal education-the radio is their chief and almost only contact with the world outside the circle of home, friends, and jobs. For all of us, what we hear on the air helps make our picture of what life in our times is and ought to be.

Is it any wonder, then, that what passes through the American air into the American mind is an important question for the nation's present and future?