Edward L. Bernays
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1939
PHILCO RADIO AND TELEVISION

First showing of Philco television to the press.

Radio did not always appeal to the masses. Introduced during the depression, radio use was rapidly expanding among the lower classes, with the more affluent and educated people believing that radio was a toy for the poor. This way of thinking created problems for radio retailers who were forced to sell their radios at lower prices in order to sell them at all.

James M. Skinner, president of Philco Radio, hired Bernays to devise a plan which would increase radio sales and expand the audience. Appealing to a more affluent audience would allow the company to raise their prices and increase their profits.

Radio, the toy of the unwashed, became the musical instrument of the affluent

Bernays's first project was the launch of a new high-fidelity radio. He believed that Philco would first have to create a need for this product. Through an informal survey of music lovers, Bernays found the biggest problem with radios was that they were not achieving faithful tone reproduction. So he staged an event which would illustrate the quality of the high-fidelity radio. Philco rented the Grand Ballroom at the Warldorf Astoria hotel, and called upon the Metropolitan Opera star Lucrezia Bori to sing. The press was invited to the event at which Bori's voice was filtered through the new product. The next day a newspaper reported that radio reception was as good as the human voice.

The next step for Bernays was to develop a plan that would create a market for higher-priced radios. By raising the level of broadcasting, he believed, Philco would appeal to a more educated and affluent audience, and in turn be able to raise the cost of their radios. He began a national drive to raise the level of radio broadcasting by developing the Radio Institute of the Audible Arts (RIAA), sponsored by Philco. The appeal for better broadcasting, including a campaign which stressed radio's importance and which demanded better music, broadcasts and educational programming, resulted in an increased enthusiasm for the radio. Radios were being used for educational purposes and in libraries, and music clubs were being established across the country. Philco began to profit by selling an enhanced, higher priced radio. Said Bernays, "RIAA was recognized throughout the country as a constructive force for radio." The RIAA did so well that both Bernays and Skinner felt they would no longer have to promote it, their new organization would be able to stand on its own.

There was still a segment of the upper class that was not buying radios. Bernays soon developed an exhibit, a gala black-tie event at the new gallery in Rockefeller Plaza, to encourage this segment to make radios part of their homes. Radio music rooms — rooms which were built around radios in period cabinets — were designed by the top designing houses of the time. "Radio, a toy of the unwashed, became the musical instrument of the affluent," said Bernays.

In 1936, Bernays began work on creating public policy which would address freedom of speech in regards to radio broadcasting. His success with this issue was later followed by a declaration of national policy standards for the very new medium of television.

To introduce television to the press, Bernays had Philco host a demonstration at their Philadelphia factory. Reporters seemed to sense just how important and expansive this new technology was going to be, and in turn communicated these observations to their readers. One reporter even predicted that television would soon forever change the nations entertainment habits. The event helped to establish Philco as leaders in this new and developing medium.

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