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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 Anning S. Prall alluded to the BBC when he proclaimed that “American listeners would not stand for the payment of a receiving-set tax [to fund an independent corporation to oversee radio]...It is not the American way of accomplishing things.” 14 Such rhetoric ran counter to the progressive notion of public service advocated by land- grant and state universities with their own radio stations. However, the FRC categorized educational radio as a “propagandistic” broadcast in the same vein as labor, religion, or the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to the FRC’s logic, the most equitable distribution of the airwaves should favor “general purpose,” i.e., commercial broadcasters. That commercial broadcasters also had a special interest—turning a profit—was was not considered because most regulators believed that the marketplace was the only true measure of the public’s desire. 15 Griffith believed likewise. This study found that he employed the “American Way” narrative to justify the ongoing expansion and profit-making potential of college football on the radio. Griffith appeared initially to have been ambivalent about commercial versus non-profit radio—until he recognized broadcasting’s profit-making potential. In seeking to understand the process by which commercial coverage became the norm, this paper adds to the scholarship on sports and radio by illuminating the pivotal role played by Griffith in aligning intercollegiate football’s fortunes with corporate America’s. Methods This study draws primarily upon historical methods within a framework of cultural studies. Building upon Susman’s argument that the 1930s was a time of “determined struggle for the attainment of the identity of an American Way of life,” 16 this paper explores Griffith’s role in 6

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
Anning S. Prall alluded to the BBC when he proclaimed that “American listeners would not 
stand for the payment of a receiving-set tax [to fund an independent corporation to oversee 
radio]...It is not the American way of accomplishing things.”
Such rhetoric ran counter to the progressive notion of public service advocated by land-
grant and state universities with their own radio stations. However, the FRC categorized 
educational radio as a “propagandistic” broadcast in the same vein as labor, religion, or the 
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to the FRC’s logic, the most equitable 
distribution of the airwaves should favor “general purpose,” i.e., commercial broadcasters. That 
commercial broadcasters also had a special interest—turning a profit—was was not considered 
because most regulators believed that the marketplace was the only true measure of the public’s 
desire.
Griffith believed likewise. This study found that he employed the “American Way” 
narrative to justify the ongoing expansion and profit-making potential of college football on the 
radio.  Griffith appeared initially to have been ambivalent about commercial versus non-profit 
radio—until he recognized broadcasting’s profit-making potential. In seeking to understand the 
process by which commercial coverage became the norm, this paper adds to the scholarship on 
sports and radio by illuminating the pivotal role played by Griffith in aligning intercollegiate 
football’s fortunes with corporate America’s. 
Methods
This study draws primarily upon historical methods within a framework of cultural 
studies. Building upon Susman’s argument that the 1930s was a time of “determined struggle for 
the attainment of the identity of an American Way of life,”
 this paper explores Griffith’s role in 
6


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