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Engineering the Public Interest, 1922-1925: Technological Rationality and Institutionalization of American Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  15 country with the same quality of entertainment and educational, public information, particularly benefiting “the lonely prairie home.” 36 In opposition to the proposal, one citizen from rural Tennessee contended that “it is the city listener-in that is calling for more-power—not the ruralist.” In fact, educational stations at agricultural universities were specifically serving rural areas and they had strong reservations about economic concentration of superpower. 37 Sarnoff’s proposal pursued a national broadcasting chain consisting of 4 or 5 high- powered stations built at strategic points. Proponents of superpower assumed the increase of power could ensure broadcasting service with no interference in an area within a radius of 500 or 1,000 miles. They expected that the small number of connections could reduce the expensive telephone line links for simultaneous broadcasting of programs. This plan presumed that the existence of a small station would be up to its service to people in that locality, regardless of superpower stations’ operation: “if a small broadcast station would become useless, there is no reason for its existence”—the unexceptional application of Social Darwinist theory of “the survival of the fittest.” They argued that the business of broadcasting would have to be reorganized on a national scale according to the development of radio technology. 38 Although Sarnoff kept emphasizing the importance of the local station as a voice of the community and its inclusion as part of the superpower plan, his idea stirred the public’s anti- monopoly concerns. Small broadcasting stations were warned about “interference and the drowning out of other stations.” Sarnoff wrote off their concerns as those of “the non-technical men.” He argued for setting aside the monopoly issue since it was a nontechnologial factor: He asked, “whether [the committee] is sitting to discuss the question of monopolies, or whether is sitting as a scientific body to discuss the technical questions.” 39 Sarnoff, Goldsmith, chief broadcasting engineer of RCA, and other engineers who were

Authors: Baek, Misook.
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15
country with the same quality of entertainment and educational, public information, particularly
benefiting “the lonely prairie home.”
36
In opposition to the proposal, one citizen from rural Tennessee contended that “it is the
city listener-in that is calling for more-power—not the ruralist.” In fact, educational stations at
agricultural universities were specifically serving rural areas and they had strong reservations
about economic concentration of superpower.
37
Sarnoff’s proposal pursued a national broadcasting chain consisting of 4 or 5 high-
powered stations built at strategic points. Proponents of superpower assumed the increase of
power could ensure broadcasting service with no interference in an area within a radius of 500 or
1,000 miles. They expected that the small number of connections could reduce the expensive
telephone line links for simultaneous broadcasting of programs. This plan presumed that the
existence of a small station would be up to its service to people in that locality, regardless of
superpower stations’ operation: “if a small broadcast station would become useless, there is no
reason for its existence”—the unexceptional application of Social Darwinist theory of “the
survival of the fittest.” They argued that the business of broadcasting would have to be
reorganized on a national scale according to the development of radio technology.
38
Although Sarnoff kept emphasizing the importance of the local station as a voice of the
community and its inclusion as part of the superpower plan, his idea stirred the public’s anti-
monopoly concerns. Small broadcasting stations were warned about “interference and the
drowning out of other stations.” Sarnoff wrote off their concerns as those of “the non-technical
men.” He argued for setting aside the monopoly issue since it was a nontechnologial factor: He
asked, “whether [the committee] is sitting to discuss the question of monopolies, or whether is
sitting as a scientific body to discuss the technical questions.”
39
Sarnoff, Goldsmith, chief broadcasting engineer of RCA, and other engineers who were


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