Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sarnoff says public will not pay for radio programs
(December 28, 1923)

With the general trend of thought among radio enthusiasts leaning towards the question, "Who will pay for broadcasting?" the remarks of David Sarnoff, vice-president and general manager of the Radio Corporation of America, in a recent address are especially timely:

"It has been said by a great many people and a great many corporations, some very large and able," said Sarnoff, "that broadcasting depends upon a solution of the problem whereby the consumer will pay for the entertainment which he receives. In other words, it has been said that unless some method is provided whereby a means is created for collecting revenue from the user of a broadcast instrument, that the whole industry is founded on sand and that it is bound to collapse in time because there will be no means of supporting it."

"It is my firm conviction," continued Mr. Sarnoff, "that that sort of solution to the problem is not necessary, that broadcasting can be made commercially practicable without any means being found for collecting from the consumer, that the greatest advantage of broadcasting lies in its universality, free entertainment, culture, instruction and all the items which constitute a program, in doing that which no other agency has yet been able to do. It is up to us, with intelligence and technique and broadness of spirit and vision as to the future, to preserve that most delightful element in the whole situation -- the freedom of radio."

"Just so soon as we destroy that freedom and universality of radio and confine it to only those who pay for it -- those who pay for the service, in other words -- just so soon as we make of broadcasting 'narrowcasting,' we destroy the fundamental of the whole situation. And, therefore, I believe very definitely that broadcasting as constituted today is commercially sound, and that it will remain so in the future, although there may be selective methods and narrowcast methods which will do no harm. These may supplement the situation. There may be wired-wireless and the like. All of these will make their contributions. But fundamentally there will remain, and there must remain and be preserved, that element of the broadcast situation which makes it possible for grand opera to go to the slums and to the districts of the poor as well as the rich, everywhere in the world, without any charge. The real picture of a $15 or a $25 set in the home of the slums, if you please, receiving the magnificent things in the air, is the picture we must preserve."

(I'm not sure the date of the cartoon but it was roughly contemporaneous to this article.)

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