Published Date

January 1, 1946

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 28: How Far Should the Government Control Radio? (1946) 

You have a very live question in “How far should government control radio?” The present system of supervising radio in the United States seems to be working pretty well; but as with all live things, radio is constantly presenting its industry, its public, and its government with new problems to solve. Will these new problems—FM, subscription radio, facsimile radio, television—bring new forms of control? Who will exercise this control, and how? What dangers lie in the extension of federal control? Where can the line be drawn between enough and too much regulation? What are the disadvantages and advantages of our system as compared with the systems of radio supervision developed in other democratic countries? These and a hundred other questions can lead to highly stimulating and informative discussion.


Organizing your discussion

In planning a short introductory talk, you might deal briefly with these questions

What conditions led to the creation of FCC in 1934? (Pages 9–13.)

How does FCC supervise radio? (Pages 13–22.)

What policies are enforced by the NAB Code? (Pages 22–27.)

Another practical way to get background facts informally before your group is to ask each of three men to prepare themselves to answer one of the above questions. They can either speak from the floor or seat themselves as a panel with you as chairman. In the latter case they can help you effectively to carry on with the discussion which follows.

After you have cleared the ground for the discussion proper, you will want to have ready an outline or list of questions which will serve to remind you of major controversial points that should be brought up for discussion. “Questions for discussion” have been prepared to help you , in this. Probably you will want to ask a lead-off question to get the talk started. When one main point has been pretty well explored, you might step in with a very brief summary of it and then raise another major question. Often the questions will be raised for you. Then all you will need to do is to recognize pertinent ones or to postpone consideration of those that belong later in the discussion. This selection of questions is your chief function as discussion leader.


GI Roundtable manuals are intended for general reading by members of discussion groups as well as aids to leaders. You will find that discussion will be stimulated if as many men as possible have read this pamphlet in advance. Get the additional copies authorized, and put a number in the library, dayrooms, service club, or other central location where men may pick them up at leisure.

Discussion techniques

Detailed and practical suggestions for organizing and conducting discussion groups in the Army are described in EM 1, GI Roundtable; Guide for Discussion Leaders. If you plan to broadcast roundtable discussions or forums on station or sound systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service, you will find excellent material on radio discussion techniques in EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable. Both can be requisitioned by information-education officers from USAFI or any USAFI oversea branch.

Questions for discussion

  1. Do you think that freedom of speech over the radio has been restricted in any way by the licensing rules of FCC? Is there any danger that it might be? Is there evidence that advertisers control what shall be said over the radio on controversial issues? Do you think radio policies on controversial issues are well handled under the voluntary NAB Code? Should trade unions and consumers’ cooperatives be permitted to buy radio time? Are there any matters now controlled voluntarily under the NAB Code that might properly be supervised by FCC?
  2. Should radio be essentially a medium for selling goods? Do you think enough time is given at present to “sustaining programs” in the service of the public? Will the radio industry, as a sound, profit-making business, be tempted to put profits ahead of public service? If such a trend sets in, would you want to see a nonprofit system which was supported in some other way? Should such a system be paid for by taxes or by private subscription? Can public interest best be served by having competition enforced by FCC licensing rules, limiting one station to one owner in any community?
  3. Do you think that FM will change the radio picture greatly? Do you think that new noncommercial FM networks which are now being planned will be successful? How should they be supported? Are they likely to offer stiff competition to present commercial networks? Do you think that subscription radio should be encouraged by FCC? Is television so expensive that it can be supported only by advertising? Do you think that the same people will plan television programs who now prepare our radio fare? Will the government have to exercise more control over international short-wave radio than it does over domestic radio?
  4. What do you think should be the objectives of a democratic nation in working out a national policy for supervising radio? Where should we in the United States draw a line between government and private control of radio? Is there a likelihood of more government control unless an increased number of private interests are brought into the field? How do other democratic countries supervise radio in the public service? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the British system? Does the British system appear to limit freedom of speech on the radio? Would either the Canadian or Australian systems suit the United States? Why?


For Further Reading

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if you have access to them or wish to purchase them from the publishers. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.

ABC of Radio. By National Association of Broadcasters, 1760 N St., N.W., Washington 6, D. C. (1938). Free on request.

An ABC of the FCC. By the Federal Communications Commission, Washington 25, D. C. (1940). Free on request.

National Policy for Radio Broadcasting. By Cornelia B. Rose. Published by Harper and Brothers, 49 East 33rd St., New York 16, N. Y. (1940). $3.00.

Modern Radio. By Kingdon S. Tyler. Published by Harcourt, Brace and Co., 383 Madison Ave., New York 17, N. Y. (1944). $3.00.