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John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era
Unformatted Document Text:  O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era three more home games, two of particular importance, and it entails a great hardship on ourselves as well as our radio audience not to be able to broadcast them.” 43 Terry appeared to have anticipated the futility of his appeal. He charged the radio supervisor with failure to take responsibility for enforcing wavelength assignments. With palpable frustration, he concluded, “We are accordingly placed in a very unsatisfactory position in as much as we have no one to whom we can appeal to secure justice in the matter.” 44 The Commerce Department did not intervene. “Has station WHA gone out of business?” asked one frustrated alumnus who could no longer tune in WHA. “Are we cheap skates that we cannot afford an up-to-date, high- powered station in connection with our University?” 45 The station staff could do little but commiserate with the listeners and promise to pursue the matter with the FRC. “Please bear with us,” a station representative replied to one disappointed sports fan. “We are leaving no stone unturned to get a better wave.” 46 Nonetheless, Wisconsin was one of the few to survive. By the early 1930s, all but a handful of educational radio stations had given up their broadcast licenses. RCA President David Sarnoff shed no tears over the collapse of non-profit radio. Commercial radio, he said, was the natural “American system of broadcasting,” and any threat to it by taxpayer-supported media was a threat to “free speech, free press, freedom of worship, and freedom of education.” 47 With their own stations largely gone, colleges and universities gradually bowed to industry requests for broadcast privileges. Since the early 1920s, commercial stations had carried college football on a sustaining basis, meaning that no money exchanged hands and no commercials aired. Rather, broadcasts were provided as a public service to listeners. As sponsorship was introduced, some universities received token fees for their broadcast rights. 48 By the early 1930s, commercial sponsorship had proved so successful that networks were no longer willing to carry football as sustaining programming. Even the few schools that still had their own 14

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
three more home games, two of particular importance, and it entails a great hardship on ourselves 
as well as our radio audience not to be able to broadcast them.”
Terry appeared to have anticipated the futility of his appeal. He charged the radio supervisor with 
failure to take responsibility for enforcing wavelength assignments. With palpable frustration, he 
concluded, “We are accordingly placed in a very unsatisfactory position in as much as we have 
no one to whom we can appeal to secure justice in the matter.
 The Commerce Department did 
not intervene.  “Has station WHA gone out of business?” asked one frustrated alumnus who 
could no longer tune in WHA. “Are we cheap skates that we cannot afford an up-to-date, high-
powered station in connection with our University?
 The station staff could do little but 
commiserate with the listeners and promise to pursue the matter with the FRC. “Please bear with 
us,” a station representative replied to one disappointed sports fan. “We are leaving no stone 
unturned to get a better wave.”
Nonetheless, Wisconsin was one of the few to survive. By the early 1930s, all but a 
handful of educational radio stations had given up their broadcast licenses. RCA President David 
Sarnoff shed no tears over the collapse of non-profit radio. Commercial radio, he said, was the 
natural “American system of broadcasting,” and any threat to it by taxpayer-supported media 
was a threat to “free speech, free press, freedom of worship, and freedom of education.
With their own stations largely gone, colleges and universities gradually bowed to 
industry requests for broadcast privileges. Since the early 1920s, commercial stations had carried 
college football on a sustaining basis, meaning that no money exchanged hands and no 
commercials aired. Rather, broadcasts were provided as a public service to listeners. As 
sponsorship was introduced, some universities received token fees for their broadcast rights.
 B
the early 1930s, commercial sponsorship had proved so successful that networks were no longer 
willing to carry football as sustaining programming. Even the few schools that still had their own 
14


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