Question: Shortwave Radio

In the united states, shortwave listening is an obscure hobby, and listening for pirates is even more obscure. I have heard a rumor that in the late 1940s, some congressmen pressured radio receiver manufacturers to stop including shortwave in their consumer receivers, and to include instead FM. FM, of course, is higher quality, but can only be received within 50 or 60 miles at most, whereas shortwave can be heard around the world. I have heard that the congressmen stepped in because they did not want americans listening to radio moscow, or news from any source outside the US for that matter.

I'm looking for verification of this story.

sent partial reply "still looking 09/23/04" to patron

I have been looking in books on radio broadcasting (at HE8698... in major research libraries that use the Lib of Congress Classification), TK 6553... for technical stuff on shortwave radio, and even D810... to try to get it from the "propaganda" end. Nothing like a charge that Congress was putting pressure has shown up after an hour or so of looking in 20 or more books here at U of MD.

I also tried the New York Times index from 1946-49, and got plenty of articles on Voice of America, short-wave broadcasts of music and arts programs, etc., and even discussions of propaganda broadcasts from Germany and the Soviet Union. Possibly a thorough search of the full text of these articles would turn up something.

I did a number of searches in Lexis Congressional, mainly in the "Historical" indexes. I find a few hearings from 1943, 1947, and 1948 regarding funding for the State Department and the FCC. There seems to have been some resentment on the part of private short wave broadcasters, that the State Department was requiring them to air a certain amount of its programming, or face the loss of their permits:

"Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and the Judiciary Appropriation Bill for 1947. Part 2: State Department--Informational and Cultural Program World Wide Broadcasting Foundation" 79th Congress, 2nd Session. SuDocs no. Y4.Ap6/2:St2/947/pt.2 . Walter S. Lemmon of World Wide Broadcasting Fdn argued for the right to continue broadcasting his educational programs - to have his wartime lease renewed. He said that the bill should be an appropriation bill - for broadcasting by State Department - and not to create a monopoly in international broadcasting.

"Study and Investigation of the Federal Communications Commission [Part 1]"(House Select committee hearings 1943) 78th Congress 1st Session. SuDocs no. Y4.F31/4:F31/pt.1 This one is missing from the Univ. of MD Government Docs (Regional Depository) collection, but Lexis subjects include Censorship, Executive Privilege, Loyalty Security Program. Several representatives from Short Wave Research, Inc testified: Marya Blow, former pres. - p 1405;
David F Seiferheld, former director and treas., p.1484; and Bertram F. Willcox, former dir, p.1464.

"Departments of State, Justice, Commerce, and the Judiciary Appropriation Bill for 1948"
80th Congress, 1st Session. SuDocs no. Y4.Ap6/2/St2/948. On page 798, William F. Brooks, VP of Intl Div of NBC, stated that "private industry cannot finance international broadcasting on the scale required."

I want to investigate this theory further - if it is true, it seems to me it would be hard for it to be completely buried. But I did want to let you know we are pursuing it, and also suggest some possible places to start digging for it, if you are near a large library. There seems to be nothing in the Library of Congress American Memory site - - that looks at all promising. I will try to find information on the web if at all possible - but it seems a bit unlikely at this point - I think the old print sources will be needed on this one.

Thanks -


Jim Miller
Senior Reference Librarian
College Park Patent & Trademark
Depository Library (PTDL) Representative
Engineering & Physical Sciences Library
University of Maryland
College Park MD 20742-7011

tel: 301-405-9152
fax: 301-405-9164

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