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 America Town Meeting of the Air

2 MP3 CDs - 36 episodes

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"How Should Democracies Deal with Dictatorships"
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America Town Meeting of the Air

Each week from 1935 to 1956, over 1,000 groups met to listen to America's Town Meeting of the Air. A forerunner of today's live talk shows, American's Town Meeting featured famous newsmakers, writers, poets, scientists, government officials and many more people who discussed current issues and other important topics.

When the federal government first began granting broadcast licenses to commercial radio stations, part of the deal was that the broadcasters would develop programing which would serve the public interest. After all, the airwaves were a public resource, those who would use them for commercial gain should be willing to act in the public interest, at least once in a while.

This mandate would give to the network news and public affairs departments. Eventually, radio (and later TV) journalism would take on more of an entertainment function rather than pure public information, but print journalism had gone through the same evolution.

America Town Meeting of the AirOne interesting experiment in public service broadcasting which was more successful than originally anticipated was America's Town Hall Meeting of the Air. When George V. Denny Jr. and the League for Political Education approached NBC with the show, the network felt it would be an interesting but not very popular piece that would likely run a few months at the most. Whether it was the format, the host, the issues or simply the public's desire to understand what was going on in the world, Town Hall Meeting managed to remain popular and on the air until 1952.

The program took its inspiration from the New England Town Hall meetings which were the primary form of direct democratic government since colonial times. Citizens from the surrounding area would gather in the hall to discuss issues of importance, from zoning issues to whether or not to seek Independence from England. In recent times, the town hall meeting has become more informative than legislative, but the center piece is always that it is a forum to discuss issues.

America's Town Hall Meeting of the Air recalls these traditions by opening with a "town crier" clanging a bell and calling "Town Meeting Tonight!" What followed was what at first appeared to be a panel discussion of important issues of the day, but there was an important difference between this and other panel discussion programs, the audience.

In most panel discussion programs, if there was an audience in the studio, they were just there to watch the proceedings. On Town Hall they were a part of the action. If the audience did not agree with the what was being said, they would boo, hiss and heckle the panelists. There was also a question and answer period in the show, although there were rules. The questions were supposed to be short and there was to be no insults or name calling. That did not keep audiences from employing sarcasm when they felt the need.

Audience participation was encouraged outside the studio as well, with listening and discussion groups across the country. The show proved popular enough that Denny wrote a monthly column in Current History magazine and there were newsletters distributed about the program.

America's Town MeetingMost of the shows originated from New York, but Denny also took the program on the road several times each season, giving audiences in the hinterlands a chance to ask their questions. Topics ranged from whether the US should involve itself in the European war to how American schools could be doing a better job.

Town Hall Meeting was an important piece of the Blue Network's programing, and it survived the transition to ABC. However, interest in the program began to dwindle as television became more popular. Denny was replaced as moderator in 1952, and the show was canceled in 1956.

The show was presented with a live audience from the New York City Town Hall and was sponsored by the League for Political Education. The live audience participated in the debates with the panelists, often contentiously. The panelists themselves often got into shouting matches, sometimes threatening to make it physical.

Text on OTRCAT.com 2001-2014 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved-Reproduction is prohibited.

The purpose of the show was to get people thinking and get them interested in current events. The first show topic was "Which Way America? Communism, Fascism, Socialism or Democracy?" . Other topics discussed included whether the US should enter World War 2, is there truly freedom of the press in the US and many more controversial and informative topics.

Text on OTRCAT.com 2001-2014 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved-Reproduction is prohibited.

The show was moderated by George V. Denny, Jr. who was the executive director of the League. He encouraged the loud audience participation and debate. What he wanted more than anything was for people to keep an open mind about the issues. However, he sometimes encountered audience members who would only wanted to criticize and not listen to other views instead of participate in a true debate on the pros and cons of the topic.

See also: University of Chicago Roundtable, CBS World News Today, Democracy in America, Speaking of Liberty and Living in an Atomic Age with philosopher, Sir Bertrand Russel, and I Can Hear it Now (Edward R. Murrow).

All text on OTRCAT.com are ©2015 OTRCAT INC - All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

Volume 1: 16 shows - total playtime 14 hours 53 minutes

ATHMoA 350614 Will Demands Of Organized Labor Promote Recovery
ATHMoA 351205 Has New Deal Promoted Or Retarded Business Recovery
ATHMoA 351212 Personal Liberty & Modern State
ATHMoA 351219 Should We Plan For Social Security
ATHMoA 360319 Supreme Court & Constitution
ATHMoA 360402 Will Unionization Promote Industrial Recovery
ATHMoA 360416 Will Machine Dominate Man
ATHMoA 361105 Public Opinion & Town Meeting Idea
ATHMoA 361126 What Does Public Want In Music
ATHMoA 380203 What Does Democracy Mean
ATHMoA 381201 Is An Economic Plan For World Peace Available
ATHMoA 381208 How Should Democracies Deal With Dictatorships
ATHMoA 390112 Do We Have A Free Press
ATHMoA 390216 Reinhold Niebuhr On Progress In Technology & Morality Excerpt
ATHMoA 390302 Are Schools Doing Their Job
ATHMoA 391019 Real Issues In European War

Volume 2: 22 shows - total playtime 15 hours 10 minutes

ATHMoA 391116 Should We Ignore Racial Differences
ATHMoA 391123 What Does American Democracy Mean To Me Excerpt
ATHMoA 391207 Can Business & Government Work Together Today
ATHMoA 400118 Does America Need Compulsory Health Insurance
ATHMoA 400125 Should Presidents National Defense Program Be Adopted
ATHMoA 400307 What Should America Do For Joads
ATHMoA 400411 Essential Differences Between Republican & Democratic Parties
ATHMoA 401212 We Preparing To Defend
ATHMoA 401226 Youths Role In Defense Of Democracy
ATHMoA 411113 What Kind Of Peace Must We Have Clip
ATHMoA 460117 What Does Returning Gi Expect At Home Excerpt
ATHMoA 461024 Earl Browder On Relationship Between Communists & Organized Labor Excerpt
ATHMoA 461031 Should US Open Its Doors To Displaced Persons Now
ATHMoA 470403 Should Communist Party Be Outlawed In Us Partial
ATHMoA 470410 Do We Really Elect Our Own President First Quarter Only
ATHMoA 470923 Should We Accept New Fashions For Women
ATHMoA 471007 What Can We Do To Improve Race & Religious Relationships In America
ATHMoA 480323 Should Presidents Civil Rights Program Be Adopted
ATHMoA 480622 Are You Preparing To Grow Old Successfully
ATHMoA 490607 Lemuel Boulware On Profit Sharing Excerpt
ATHMoA 491220 Will A $100 Pension Provide Real Security
ATHMoA 520527 Who Are Troublemakers In Our Democracy Incomplete



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