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Part 1 Conclusion: Towards Transnationalism

These chapters have attempted to set the early history of broadcasting in a transnational framework, revealing forces and aspects that previous nationally oriented histories have tended to obscure or misrepresent. The first decade and a half of radio broadcasting not only set a new conduit of national culture in place, it established the terms of a highly productive set of discursive frameworks employed in both Great Britain and the United States (and eventually around the world) to support and justify decisions made in the course of radio’s roll-out. Broadcasters and policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic worked hard to establish a contrasting position to their chief global rival. “American” radio became, in the British context, symbolic of all that the BBC resisted, not because US broadcasting itself presented a serious threat (as did Hollywood film) but as a stand-in for a set of domestic denationalizing forces. These included not only radio-specific factors such as the desire to control amateurs, appease press interests, and curb the power of the Marconi Company, but other more broadly diffused social pressures that broadcasting threw into high relief, such as the changing status of the working class, the tension between local, regional, and national identities, and the increasing globalization of consumer culture. Close attention to the Post Office debates surrounding the formation of the British Broadcasting Company show that it was these national factors that led to the initiation of broadcasting as a license fee-funded monopoly under the direction of the central government, preceding the later formulation of public service mission and goals that the BBC’s young director, Sir John Reith, would articulate.