chapter  6
29 Pages

In It Together: Wartime Radio 134

ByNew: News

Of course, the war began in Britain more than two years before America became involved. The earlier part of this chapter attempted to keep this in mind, dealing with British events mostly before 1939, and with US developments before the end of 1941, when America entered the war. However, some elements of the transatlantic story do not separate out quite this way; they are intimately involved with the fact that, during the intermediary period, some things were possible-and indeed necessary-based on the imbalance between Britain at war and America balanced on the edge of neutrality. We have already traced the tale of WRUL, and noted the influence of debates over national identity and ideology as reflected in the US public service documentary dramas of the late 1930s. Between 1939 and 1942, startling innovations would take place in radio practice. Broadcast news would develop as an important and inseparable part of radio’s service on both sides of the Atlantic, bringing the war into homes around the world and shaping the news format that we take for granted today. The first British radio domestic serial would be originated on the North American Service as a propaganda vehicle designed to draw the US into the war, with far greater impact on British broadcasting than on American opinion. Significant careers would be built in the interstices between Britain and America, public

service and commercial broadcasting, political involvement and neutrality, such as those of Edward R. Murrow, Norman Corwin, and Alistair Cooke.