Event Title

American Hero, Meet Corporate Culture: America’s First Veteran-Owned Radio Station and the Struggle for Identity

Location

Panel 07: Basil 212

Start Date

26-10-2012 3:30 PM

End Date

26-10-2012 5:00 PM

Description

The red, white and blue patriotism of war is embedded in American popular culture. Images of the heroic return of soldiers following V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945 are as much a part of American public memory as the images of leaders and iconic celebrities over decades. In fact, the media of 1945 and beyond has increasingly given us better ways of recording and capturing our history through emerging technology. It has also made our history a commodity itself. In his landmark 1991 critique of corporate power and its insidiously omnipresent control over public expression, Herbert Schiller places the end of World War II as the time in American culture when corporate interests began their assault on the authentic expressions that can create and preserve a free society.

With its much healthier comparative economic post-war position, the United States was quickly to become the breeding ground for media ventures that would support and spread the culture of capitalism to the remaining free world. Peacetime would also give Americans a leg-up in media production, ownership and dissemination that remains today, even as the Internet and social media have seemingly democratized media access and production.

When thousands of young men returned to their hometown of Rochester in the 1940s, they did so in greater numbers than in many large American cities. The lure of jobs at employment hubs like Eastman Kodak certainly acted like a magnet for some returning GIs, but the lure of entrepreneurism – always a hallmark of Western New York State – would have been arguably as strong. In 1948, a group of eager veterans applied for and obtained what would be a license to operate America’s first AM radio station that was to be run by veterans and for veterans. These new media entrepreneurs, with the best intentions of ensuring that their valor in battles on foreign soils would translate into sustainable business on the public airwaves soon found its vision to compete on its own terms fading into a corporate template for success that had less to do with their service to America and more to do with the corporate bottom line.

This paper examines the case of WVET, the first and fledgling radio station founded by United States veterans, and traces its origins, its struggles to operate in the new corporate America of the 1940s and 1950s and uncovers reasons for its inception and ultimate demise by the early 1960s.

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Oct 26th, 3:30 PM Oct 26th, 5:00 PM

American Hero, Meet Corporate Culture: America’s First Veteran-Owned Radio Station and the Struggle for Identity

Panel 07: Basil 212

The red, white and blue patriotism of war is embedded in American popular culture. Images of the heroic return of soldiers following V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945 are as much a part of American public memory as the images of leaders and iconic celebrities over decades. In fact, the media of 1945 and beyond has increasingly given us better ways of recording and capturing our history through emerging technology. It has also made our history a commodity itself. In his landmark 1991 critique of corporate power and its insidiously omnipresent control over public expression, Herbert Schiller places the end of World War II as the time in American culture when corporate interests began their assault on the authentic expressions that can create and preserve a free society.

With its much healthier comparative economic post-war position, the United States was quickly to become the breeding ground for media ventures that would support and spread the culture of capitalism to the remaining free world. Peacetime would also give Americans a leg-up in media production, ownership and dissemination that remains today, even as the Internet and social media have seemingly democratized media access and production.

When thousands of young men returned to their hometown of Rochester in the 1940s, they did so in greater numbers than in many large American cities. The lure of jobs at employment hubs like Eastman Kodak certainly acted like a magnet for some returning GIs, but the lure of entrepreneurism – always a hallmark of Western New York State – would have been arguably as strong. In 1948, a group of eager veterans applied for and obtained what would be a license to operate America’s first AM radio station that was to be run by veterans and for veterans. These new media entrepreneurs, with the best intentions of ensuring that their valor in battles on foreign soils would translate into sustainable business on the public airwaves soon found its vision to compete on its own terms fading into a corporate template for success that had less to do with their service to America and more to do with the corporate bottom line.

This paper examines the case of WVET, the first and fledgling radio station founded by United States veterans, and traces its origins, its struggles to operate in the new corporate America of the 1940s and 1950s and uncovers reasons for its inception and ultimate demise by the early 1960s.