Today it is World Radio Day, and this year’s theme is Radio and Trust. More than a century ago the first radio signal was transmitted by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. A processing start, but it took a little while longer before the first voices and music were transmitted via electromagnetic waves.
The first radio broadcasts were a huge success, but at the same time raised serious anxieties. The newspapers for instance were afraid that radio would put them out of business. Printing newspapers took time and they feared that radio broadcasts would render their next-day coverage to lining for the litter box before it even was printed.
There were lots of people who didn’t trust this new invention. Some people were worried that undesirable radio programs would penetrate the sanctity of their homes. Others predicted that families wouldn’t leave their homes anymore because they would only listen to broadcasts, which would surely erode their involvement in social events. And in 1932, journalist Anne O’Hare McCormick wrote an article in the New York Times in which she stated that radio was a “great unknown force” and that radio was a passive, abnormal experience with a “dazing, almost anesthetic effect upon the mind.” Scholar Jason Loviglio feared that radio broadcasts could brainwash an audience and described it as “hypnotised audiences falling under the sway of irrational forces like fascism, communism, or even a corrupt and bankrupt capitalism.”
The emergence of radio altered so many businesses and changed so many social patterns that it is clear why it its seen as a disruptive innovation and was celebrated and feared at the same time. And trust has always been an issue with radio. The thing is, radio is a mass medium. And exposure to a mass medium has a tendency to reinforce (latent) existing behaviors and beliefs. In the early days of radio, scientists discovered these reinforcing qualities of radio broadcasts during election broadcasts radio commercials. If you are an open minded person it will provide you with new insights, but if you can’t be bothered with modern developments it will reinforce your conservative ideas.
People tend to believe who they want to believe, and whether or not their broadcast is trustworthy is not an issue. The million dollar question is how we can open ourselves up for new ideas and not let our uneasiness with something new spiral out of control into xenophobia.
Radio has the power to change our behavior, for better or worse. Let’s make sure that radio will change us for the better.
Want to know more about disruptive innovations that changed our society? Order our book ‘Nay-Sayers: How to innovate and deal with resistance against new ideas here.