By Thomas F. Schwartz
An old joke in the media industry is to indicate to something that they have “a face for radio.” I have often been told I too have a face for radio. Most people never knew that Herbert Hoover regulated the radio airwaves so broadcasters would not have overlapping signals. He also was the first person to have his face broadcast in a television transmission on April 7, 1927 over telephone lines from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Because of his foresight as Commerce Secretary for both the radio and television industry, he was honored with a special citation of the Radio and Television Executives Society on March 10, 1960 at their 20th Anniversary Dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Hoover was not in attendance being on his annual bone fishing outing in Florida. But he sent the following telegram to be read in his absence:
“It is a great honor to receive the Award of the Radio and Television Executives Society. This revives memories of days when the older members of this group and I worked together to bring the benefits of a great scientific discovery into American homes. You have carried it on to the level of a great art and a sturdy protector of the American way of life.
From your development the American people receive instant news from all over the world and the presentation of the best of world intelligence and music.
On this happy occasion I will not expand my forebodings to you of thirty-seven years ago as to commercials. They should not be charged to you but to the advertisers. They surround your great programs fore and aft with a half dozen plugs. However, even in the pain of singing commercials, I justify even these by the realization that from the support of advertisers you have kept the wave lengths and channels in the safer hands of private enterprise rather than in those of government.
I am grateful for your tribute and for your presence on earth. ”Herbert Hoover
Hoover lived during the high tide of advertising and the agencies that had offices and buildings along Madison Avenue in New York City. The most successful commercials mixed catchy tunes with memorable tag lines to create early versions of “earworms.” Writer and director Matthew Weiner captured the influence of advertising during the 1960s in his television series Mad Men. Advertising is still celebrated during the annual Super Bowl where 30 second ads cost millions of dollars to produce and to air. Hoover was willing to endure commercials if it meant free and competitive radio and television without government control or interference. This comported with his philosophy of small government and free enterprise. If you think back, perhaps some of the jingles from your childhood can be conjured back in your memory and even bring a smile to your face.