I Media Main I Media by Decade I Media by Genre I Media Timeline I
War in the Media, Radio's Victory
Radio became the dominant form of media during and after World War II, as it could provide war information much faster than newspapers, and people desired current news of the war situation and of their relatives fighting overseas. Radio was also more economical, as it was a one-time investment of a radio set. Newspapers still supplied daily information and advertising, but continued consolidation of newspapers caused the public to question whether the press was being controlled and standardised by a few press lords such as William Randolph Hearst. Despite concern, large media groups would continue to grow throughout the 1940s.
The early 1940s was one of the darkest periods in modern history - World War II. After the Japanese made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, an American naval base in Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the horrifying announcement: "The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbour!" rang out across newspapers and radio. The shocked America stayed glued to their radio sets to listen to President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" address the next day. On December 9, a world audience of 90 million heard Roosevelt proclaim over radio: "We are going to win the war and … the peace that follows." His effective commication skills and use of radio to deliver his friendly "Fireside Chats" gave the Americans faith in their president and their country's ability to win the war.
The media was a powerful tool to encourage the war effort. In America, newsreels were shown at cinemas, radio announcements and newspaper space given for government press releases, calling for donations towards the war effort. They also reported continuously on the war and the plight of the soldiers worldwide. As the war neared the end, it was radio that first told the nation of the death of President Roosevelt in 1945, with Vice-President Harry S. Truman succeeding him. The media captured the grief and sadness of the mourning nation through photographs of the mourners and solemn music on radio.
After World War II, Communism dominated Russia and was spreading quickly to other countries. The USA, a democracy, strongly opposed it, and got rid of all suspicious communist media sources, such as the communist newspaper, the Daily Worker; even the mainstream periodical, National Geographic was examined. Voice of America, first started by the US government in 1942 to counter Nazi propaganda, provided radio broadcasts to foreign countries to offset communism's influence. (Today, VOA still broadcasts in over 50 languages around the world.)
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allies stormed Normandy coast of France, beginning the liberation of Europe from the Axis Powers. Just approximately 23 hours later, London's news chief at Blue Network (later to become ABC), George Hicks broadcasted footage of the invasion over television. He had recorded the film with a portable Navy camera from the ship S.S. Ancon, 8 miles of the coast. Before then, there had been no televised coverage of the war for security reasons. Hailed as a great success, pre-recorded films of "live events" such as Hicks' would help media move into the age of the television.
The television had been introduced to the public at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Some of the earlier programs shown included a televised broadcast of the Geneva Conventions and a 90-minute documentary on reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941. World War II temporarily halted the television's development; in 1942, the manufacturing of receivers and television broadcasts were stopped. Community Antenna Television, CATV, was started in 1948 in America, with most television stations in large cities like New York. There were roughly one million televison sets by 1948. On television, there were comedy sketches, music, and news and commentaries, all in black and white. Only in 1953, was a colour system developed by RCA (Radio Corporation of America) approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the USA.
Cross-Media Ownership Of Newspapers, Radio and Television
In the early Forties, a public debate over cross-media ownership arose. By 1941, 30% of AM radio stations were owned by newspapers, while 28 of the first 60 television licenses were applied for by newspapers. As newspaper sales declined due to increased competition, publishers could profit from radio instead. Some argued that cross-media ownership prevented a good mix of opinions to be expressed because media conglomerates could own newspapers, radio and television stations, standardizing news and views between them. In 1949, a ruling known as the Fairness Doctrine, gave broadcasters the responsibilty of being fair and offering opposing views as well in their news coverage.
In the Forties, most advertising featured men and women in uniform, with pro-war-effort and patriotic themes. The growth of radio allowed advertising to go audio. The majority of radio advertising consisted of "sponsored by" announcements by the radio host, while some commercials had live singers and music.
Many new publications that emerged in the 1940s were to do with television or radio. An example was the weekly publication, Television Index, which covered things like television listings, articles about the television writers, advertisers and producers. Movies stars were of course popular, but during the war, scientists and politicians were featured in magazines as well, due to their significance to the war effort.
As the Forties closed, communism and the threat of a nuclear war loomed, but radio and television provided laughter, entertainment and distraction, in addition to news. Television would dramatically develop into enjoyable programming and informative news in the next decade, known as the Golden Age of Television.