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May 28, 1938 – Perhaps not an earth-shattering day for news, but a significant one for future reference. This special program, featuring a discussion/interview with WOR Chief Engineer J.R. Poppele, who had just returned from a fact-finding mission and review of broadcasting in Europe, sheds light on what was just around the corner; broadcasting and news-gathering for distribution around the world – and the status on development of Television.
1938 would be the year Radio became a source of news-gathering and reporting on a grand scale. The Munich crisis, just a few months away, would be the defining moment for access to news as it was happening half-way around the world. Poppele details the technological advances on the parts of European broadcasters and how they were faring in comparison to American counterparts. Two important elements were unfolding; Shortwave broadcasting and Television. TV was still in its infancy – more an experiment than an actual communications medium. There were television sets in roughly 1,000 households in Britain and on average of 4 hours a day of TV broadcasting.
Discussion on the plusses and minuses of Commercial broadcasting versus Government-controlled broadcasting. The types of programming coming from Europe and the types of American programming being beamed to Europe. How censorship was playing a role in broadcasting – how German radio was primarily propaganda but that American variety programs, especially popular music programs were very popular, if not limited.
You can draw parallels between the status of Radio in the 1930s and the status of High-Tech and Social Media in 2020 – the issues of control, of content, of popularity and the social phenomenon around it seem very similar in many ways.
To get a better idea of where we were, both socially and technologically in 1938, here is that discussion as broadcast as a special features item from Mutual Broadcasting on May 28, 1938.