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Engineering the Public Interest, 1922-1925: Technological Rationality and Institutionalization of American Broadcasting
Unformatted Document Text:  3 superpower with discriminatory licensing policy. In this policy-making process, corporate radio engineers wielded scientific authority beyond the area of technological expertise. As technological development could not resolve the problems of interference and limitation of available wavelengths (frequencies), 4 technological discrimination necessitated the entrance of non-technological rationale to legitimize the new administrative policy of channel allocation and licensing. The determination of who could access the air and who could be granted licensing required consideration of social, economic, political, and cultural aspects of the public interest. Policy choice of technology also needed to dictate both listeners’ interests in long distance listening toward actual programs and the use of certain types of radio sets. Corporations and Hoover with the help of elite radio engineers attempted to cover or separate the complex relationship of communication technologies and society under the cloak of technological criteria of the public interest. This study focuses on three main questions. First, how was the language of the public interest relocated in the changing technological discrimination over time? Second, how were the socioeconomic qualitative factors camouflaged with instrumental, technological rationality in broadcasting policy-making regarding the wavelength allocation and licensing? Third, how did the public respond to such dictation of listening interests and technological interpretation of the public interest in organizing broadcasting? Reclassification of the Public Interest: Creating Class B Stations as “Public” Broadcasting Hoover’s radio policy between 1922 and 1926 is characterized by his pursuit of high- power development as the best possible technical alternative to interference. Such policy direction first appeared with the creation of Class B licenses. Since then, Class B stations were in the center of Hoover’s radio policy as providers of high-class entertainment and superior

Authors: Baek, Misook.
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3
superpower with discriminatory licensing policy.
In this policy-making process, corporate radio engineers wielded scientific authority
beyond the area of technological expertise. As technological development could not resolve the
problems of interference and limitation of available wavelengths (frequencies),
4
technological
discrimination necessitated the entrance of non-technological rationale to legitimize the new
administrative policy of channel allocation and licensing. The determination of who could access
the air and who could be granted licensing required consideration of social, economic, political,
and cultural aspects of the public interest. Policy choice of technology also needed to dictate both
listeners’ interests in long distance listening toward actual programs and the use of certain types
of radio sets. Corporations and Hoover with the help of elite radio engineers attempted to cover
or separate the complex relationship of communication technologies and society under the cloak
of technological criteria of the public interest.
This study focuses on three main questions. First, how was the language of the public
interest relocated in the changing technological discrimination over time? Second, how were the
socioeconomic qualitative factors camouflaged with instrumental, technological rationality in
broadcasting policy-making regarding the wavelength allocation and licensing? Third, how did
the public respond to such dictation of listening interests and technological interpretation of the
public interest in organizing broadcasting?
Reclassification of the Public Interest:
Creating Class B Stations as “Public” Broadcasting
Hoover’s radio policy between 1922 and 1926 is characterized by his pursuit of high-
power development as the best possible technical alternative to interference. Such policy
direction first appeared with the creation of Class B licenses. Since then, Class B stations were in
the center of Hoover’s radio policy as providers of high-class entertainment and superior


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