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Engineering the Public Interest, 1922-1925: Technological Rationality and Institutionalization of American Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  28 a few financially and technologically strong corporations. On the other hand, it assumed that without commercial structure, the public interest was impossible. It was the success of both corporations and the Commerce Department who attempted to separate the intertwined issues retained in policies of Class B, superpower, and licensing discrimination. Until the end of 1925, such policy approaches focusing on Class B and superpower stations had been successfully operated despite much resistance from small stations. Elite corporate radio engineers played a crucial role in legitimizing policy decisions beyond the areas of their technological expertise and authority. It worked out in two ways: to naturalize a commercial broadcasting system in the defeat of Naval attempt to control radio and to mute socioeconomic issues arising from radio policy favoring large corporate stations. Nevertheless, new technology created new, often expanded, problems. Technological approaches still necessitated qualification of non-technological characteristics of the public interest since technological development brought in unexpected “problems of progress.” 73 Technological progress brought increasing use of spectrum and therewith more interference and complicated issues of who can access the limited resource of the airwaves. When the technological discrimination was designed to give advantages to corporate demands for the increased range of exclusive wavelengths, qualitative properties of the public interest came into play. It left the unanticipated precedent of the public interest principle that broadcasters agreed to restrict free speech rights for listeners’ right to listen, regardless of whatever “public interest” they meant. The authorization of private property rights to the given wavelengths and their trade in the market intensified the tension that “technological advance alone would not have solved.” It also resulted in selling noncommercial stations to commercial stakes and cut off the access of the social, political, and economic margins to the airwaves. 74 Despite the efforts to narrow the problem to the technical issue of spectrum allocation

Authors: Baek, Misook.
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28
a few financially and technologically strong corporations. On the other hand, it assumed that
without commercial structure, the public interest was impossible.
It was the success of both corporations and the Commerce Department who attempted
to separate the intertwined issues retained in policies of Class B, superpower, and licensing
discrimination. Until the end of 1925, such policy approaches focusing on Class B and
superpower stations had been successfully operated despite much resistance from small stations.
Elite corporate radio engineers played a crucial role in legitimizing policy decisions beyond the
areas of their technological expertise and authority. It worked out in two ways: to naturalize a
commercial broadcasting system in the defeat of Naval attempt to control radio and to mute
socioeconomic issues arising from radio policy favoring large corporate stations.
Nevertheless, new technology created new, often expanded, problems. Technological
approaches still necessitated qualification of non-technological characteristics of the public
interest since technological development brought in unexpected “problems of progress.”
73
Technological progress brought increasing use of spectrum and therewith more interference and
complicated issues of who can access the limited resource of the airwaves.
When the technological discrimination was designed to give advantages to corporate
demands for the increased range of exclusive wavelengths, qualitative properties of the public
interest came into play. It left the unanticipated precedent of the public interest principle that
broadcasters agreed to restrict free speech rights for listeners’ right to listen, regardless of
whatever “public interest” they meant. The authorization of private property rights to the given
wavelengths and their trade in the market intensified the tension that “technological advance
alone would not have solved.” It also resulted in selling noncommercial stations to commercial
stakes and cut off the access of the social, political, and economic margins to the airwaves.
74
Despite the efforts to narrow the problem to the technical issue of spectrum allocation


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