The Depression created a demand for sober, public-service uses of radio. Seizing the moment, NACRE launched the most ambitious experiments in national educational broadcasting that had ever been tried in America.
“If you educators do not hold radio for yourselves,” Judge Ira Robinson told educational broadcasters in June 1930, “it is going to be so fortified by commercial interests that you will never get it.”
The lone pro-education member of the Federal Radio Commission, Robinson had ample grounds for alarm. Since the mid-’20s, dozens of school-operated stations had been driven from the air by a combination of commercial competition, FRC pressures, and their own lack of resources and resourcefulness. In 1930, the mortality rate seemed to be rising; more than 20 educational stations would fall silent by the end of July. During the previous winter, Commissioner Robinson had been involved in a promising initiative that might have brought the federal government to the rescue. But the Advisory Committee on Education by Radio, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, had pulled back from recommending measures that would do much good for beleaguered educational broadcasters.