“From “Cracking the Ike Age”, The Dolphin No.23, Aarhus University Press, Denmark
©1992 John Whiting May be quoted in part with credit as below:
Lewis Hill and the Origins of Listener-Sponsored Broadcasting in America
By John Whiting
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
American radio programs of the thirties and forties are easy to get nostalgic about now that the issues they didn’t confront and the questions they didn’t ask are well behind us. They were intended to entertain or stimulate the listeners in such a way as to promote the sponsors’ products. To that end they tried to amuse, excite, even frighten the punters into a state of mind in which they would be susceptible to the Big Sell.
As the great radio maverick Henry Morgan explained, the air time on all the network stations was filled by a small number of announcer/actors whose ranks were extremely difficult to break into: “about thirty of them did ninety percent of the work”. (BUX p. vii) Morgan was himself one of this elite, having worked his way up quickly from page boy to full-time announcer by 1932 and by 1938 to his own comedy show on WOR, New York (which, at the age of seven, I half-listened to only because it occupied, on alternate days, the same time slot as Superman).
The “radio voice” was established early: it demanded a norm of intonation, inflection and voice projection which was as absolute in its rules as the BBC’s so-called “standard English”. Deep chest tones, bland assurance, total lack of hesitation or error were essential, so as to convey that ineffable, indispensable quality-Sincerity. This exaggerated diction also helped to compensate for the primitive equipment and the bad reception in “fringe” areas.
Lewis Hill, the founder of listener-sponsored broadcasting in America, described in 1951 one of the standard audition procedures, symptomatic of the principles and practices which had led him to seek an alternative to commercial radio:
“The test consists of three or four paragraphs minutely constructed to avoid conveying any meaning. The words are familiar and every sentence is grammatically sound, but the text is gibberish. The applicant is required to read this text in different voices, as though it meant different things: with solemnity and heavy sincerity, with lighthearted humor, and of course with ‘punch’. If the judges award him the job and tur . . . . “