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Commercial temptation: Cross-border radio and the comparative transformation of public service broadcast policy in Britain, South Africa and India, 1930–67

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Britain pioneered the idea of broadcasting as a commercial-free and culturally uplifting monopoly, which its imperial progeny in South Africa and India adopted. But all three soon found themselves vulnerable to entrepreneurs broadcasting commercials and pop culture from accommodating locations just across national frontiers. Listeners in all three countries tuned in by the millions and advertisers rushed to sponsor shows and buy commercials. Radio Luxembourg outdrew the British Broadcasting Corporation on Sundays in the 1930s, Radio Ceylon easily bested All India Radio in the 1950s, and Lourenço Marques Radio dominated the white South African youth market in the 1960s. Governments tried to fight the cross-border broadcasters through diplomacy, economic pressure and petty harassment, but in all cases popular ‘light’ culture and, eventually, advertising prevailed. This article details the common experiences and connections among these broadcasters, and points the way for future research.
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Keywords: British Broadcasting Corporation; John Reith; Lourenço Marques Radio; Radio Ceylon; Radio Luxembourg; commercial broadcasting; public service broadcasting; radio

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dominican University

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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  • The Radio Journal is committed to high-quality, diverse research in the arena of radio and sound media, from broadcast to podcast and all in between. We look for articles that explore the production, circulation and reception of radio and creative soundwork, addressing historical and contemporary issues in sound-based journalism and media studies from a wide range of national and transnational perspectives.
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