Lecture 3: The Corporate Model of Media Freedom

Corporate Model of Media Freedom video

Corporatism = media freedom of private and public businesses.

Liberal media freedom assumed small-scale production of media.
Selfish property-owners in civil society were also altruistic citizens of republic.
Politician-journalist-printer-publishers of 1776 American and 1789 French Revolutions: Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Paul Marat.
Radical newspapers with print runs of 500-5,000 copies to be shared and read aloud in cafés, pubs, clubs, libraries, brothels, lodges and workplaces.

John Keane, Media and Democracy.
Clifford Conner, Jean Paul Marat: Scientist and Revolutionary.

Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) founded Daily Mail in 1896: ‘the newspaper written by office boys for office boys.’
Mechanisation of printing and consumer advertising = low prices and large circulations: one paper for many readers -> one reader of many papers.
Virtuous circle of rising profits and pay: mass production = mass consumption.
Henry Ford’s Dearborn motor car factory as symbol of new stage of civilisation.
19th century liberal capitalism -> 20th century Fordist capitalism.

Karl Marx, Capital Volume 3.
Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: the US Experience.

Second industrial revolution: steel, chemicals and electricity.
Radio as pioneer of electronic media: crystals -> valves -> transistors -> chips.
Guglielmo Marconi = 1897 inventor of wireless telegraphy.
Marconi Company in the service of the British Empire.
One-third cost of wired telegraphy to connect with colonies and foreign markets.
Royal Navy and merchant vessels in steam age: ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communications.
Marconi monopoly of airwaves: patent 7777, shore stations and leased sets.
Tsushima 1905 and Titanic 1912.

Christopher Sterling and John Kittross, Stay Tuned.
Richard Barbrook, Policeman of the Ether.

1914-8 First War of Succession to British Empire: Marconi v. Telefunken.
1917 US Navy took over Marconi shore stations in North America.
1918 victory over Germany -> ‘Save radio control for America’ – Admiral Bullard.
1921 Radio Corporation of America (RCA) = Morgan Guaranty Trust (finance), Mellon National Bank (finance), General Electric (valves), Westinghouse (valves), AT&T (telephony) and United Fruit (shipping).
1920s Wall Street bubble stocks: construction, cars, fridges, airplanes and radios.

Radio broadcasting as after-sales services for selling radio sets.
Frank Conrad set up KDKA in 1920 Pittsburg: amateur programming by techies.
Ham radio of early-1920s: military radio operators -> hobby of men and boys.
1922 David Sarnoff memorandum: ubiquity of radio hindered commodification.
1922 WBAY-NY sold airtime to advertisers not programmes to listeners.
Rapid growth in amateur, small business and university radio stations.
1st Amendment on the airwaves: 1912 Radio Act -> 1926 Court decision.
Late-1920s radio wars -> 1927 Radio Act nationalised all frequencies.
Ham radio as transmitter-receiver -> consumer radio as receiver only.
Federal Radio Commission (FRC) licensing stations = First Amendment abolished.

Eric Barnouw, A Tower in Babel.
Lawrence Lichty and Malachi Topping, American Broadcasting.

1926 RCA formed National Broadcasting Company (NBC): Red and Blue services.
1927 Columbia Broadcasting Company (CBS): ‘aristocracy of airwaves’.
National stations with local franchises: Wall Street and Main Street alliance.
FRC awarded 88.5% of total wattage to NBC and CBS and 7% to independents.
Harassment and marginalisation of Left and African-American stations.
First copy costs: expensive production -> mass consumption -> massive profits.
13,000 radio workers in New York for 100 million listeners in 1935 USA.
CBS dividends 1927-39 = x13 initial investment: radio as counter-cyclical stock.
RCA’s multi-media synergy: set manufacture, radio transmission, programme production, advertising agency, record company, film studio, talent agency, concert halls and fan magazines.
Bing Crosby as Fordist celebrity: star of stage, screen, radio and records.

Eric Barnouw, The Golden Web.
Philip Rosen, The Modern Stentors.
Sydney Head and Christopher Sterling, Broadcasting in America.

First Copy Costs diagram
RCA/NBC diagram

Politicians appointed FRC: NBC = Republican and CBS = Democrat.
Father Coughlin and Henry Ford on NBC and FDR’s fireside chats on CBS.
Advertiser as first censor under Fordism: selling brands to nationwide audience.
Proctor & Gamble = soap operas and Jack Benny sponsored by Jello.
David Sarnoff argued that NBC and CBS programming was free speech in 1936.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer denounced the cultural industries in 1944.
Fordist takeover of media = corporate commercialisation as mass conformity.
Advertising-funded entertainment as capitalist propaganda -> fascism and war.

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.
Jürgen Habermas, The Transformation of the Public Sphere.

Public Service Broadcasting: European alternative to US private networks.
Sir Henry Norman’s 1922 visit to USA -> letter in The Times.
GPO and Newspaper Publishers’ Association v. commercial broadcasting.
1921 ‘Big Six’ radio manufacturers found British Broadcasting Company (BBC).
Set levy avoided by amateur constructors -> BBC funding crisis.
1923 Sykes and 1927 Crawford Committees: ‘great & good’ consensus.
Licence fee was price not tax -> no state collection for private monopoly.
1927 Conservative Party nationalised BBC as British Broadcasting Corporation.
Public utility: BBC programming = after-sales service for manufacturers and monopoly profits for Treasury.
John Reith as BBC Director-General: Scottish Presbyterian Unionist Tory.
BBC Board of Governors included Ethel Snowden as only woman and socialist.
London studios providing national service: LW transmitter at Daventry.
BBC English, presenters in dinner jackets and scripted programmes.
Light entertainment and comedy with BBC Sunday = high culture and religion.
BBC as Tory propaganda in 1926 General Strike -> BBC news as balanced and impartial between parliamentary parties = exclusion of CPGB and BUF.

Asa Briggs, The History of Broadcasting in the UK, Volumes 1-3.
Ronald Coase, British Broadcasting.
John Reith, The Reith Diaries.

1936 French Popular Front: alliance of Socialists, Radicals and Communists v. Catholic fascism.
Léon Blum = leader of Section Française de l’International Ouvrière (SFIO).
Second International Marxism: political democracy -> social democracy.
1920s and 1930s Socialism: ‘exercise of power’ -> ‘conquest of power’.
Industrialisation of media = liberal media freedom -> fascist propaganda.
1940 Vichy collaboration with Nazi occupation discredited private media.
1944 Resistance nationalised media -> Radio-Télévision-Française (RTF).
State ownership of publishing and radio = media freedom for all voting citizens.
Public service state = economic-technical infrastructure for party media.
Pillarisation of public service state = party division of state employment.

Richard Barbrook, Media Freedom.

Citizens voted for MPs who represented their views on public service media.
Party politicians excluded dissident views from airwaves: Stalinists, pacifists, anti-imperialists -> imposition of conservative cultural and moral attitudes.
Private and Public broadcasters = small workforce in big city providing uniform service to national audience.
Corporate media freedom = bureaucratic state-capitalist monopoly of expression.

‘The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life… if it knew how to … let the listener speak as well as hear …’ – Bertolt Brecht 1926.

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