Regulation of Radio Broadcasting

February 19, 1938

Report Outline
Projected F.C.C. Probe of Radio Monopoly
Administration's Efforts to Reform F. C. C.
Crystallization of Control Over Broadcasting
Newspaper Ownership of Radio Stations

Projected F.C.C. Probe of Radio Monopoly

Meninch Warning Against Concentration of Control

In an effort to “keep radio democratic,” the Federal Communications Commission will soon undertake a thorough investigation of monopoly in the field of broadcasting. This was made known by Frank R. McNinch, Commission chairman, in an address at Washington, before the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, on February 15. “So much has been said in Congress, and by the press gene-rally, about monopoly and the control of the industry by chains,” McNinch declared, “that the time is here when we must deal with these problems by fully exploring these matters so we may have exact information upon which to predicate judgments and policies.” The investigation will explore the contractual relations of chain broadcasting systems with their affiliates and with stations they manage, as well as related questions. McNinch did not state whether the question of newspaper ownership of broadcasting stations would be covered.

Pointing out in his address that within a remarkably short period of time radio had taken first rank as a means of mass communication, McNinch said: “The very fact that radio has the power to carry its message direct and daily to so nearly all of our citizenship stamps it as a unique public utility which is affected with a peculiar and distinct public interest, and one whose basic problems are social rather than economic,” Radio's potency as a social force lifted it to “a new and different level” from other means of communication and stamped it with “an imperative dedication to our public weal.”

Warning Against Concentration of Control

McNinch warned the radio industry that it was the trustee of a public resource, “and the public neither expects nor will tolerate that this resource shall become primarily the plaything of fortune hunters.” If the industry exalted profits to the impairment of public service, the public would demand a reckoning. If you want to keep radio democratic … [he told the broadcasters], you must be on your guard against, the growth and development of any autocratic power within the industry. Yours is a young industry and it need not fall into the grievous errors that other industries have fallen into in the past. Certain industries in the past permitted a concentration of control that grew to such vast proportions as to become a veritable Frankenstein that turned upon and destroyed its creators. The railroads and the power industry and other industries paid the price of public condemnation for their own folly in permitting these industries to come under the domination of a few powerful greedy men. Do not flatter yourselves that this could not happen to the radio industry. Face the stark reality that, as a member of your own industry has said to me: “Radio could not survive an Insull.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 29, 1994  Talk Show Democracy
Feb. 19, 1938  Regulation of Radio Broadcasting
May 25, 1932  Radio Advertising and Radio Regulation
May 21, 1931  Radio Competition with Newspapers
Mar. 31, 1924  Radio Development and Monopoly
Radio and Television
Regulation and Legal Issues