Erik Barnouw

Broadcasting Historian / Author / Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Erik Barnouw, (1908-2001) talks about his early years and attending Princeton University. He describes working for an advertising agency and dealing with the sponsorship of many early radio programs. He recounts becoming a broadcasting teacher at Columbia University and creating the early program Seminar for ABC, which was broadcast live from Columbia. He recalls writing for the historical radio drama "Cavalcade of America," and later heading the Armed Forces Radio Services education unit during World War II. Barnouw outlines the Golden Age of Television, and describes writing an adaptation of "Hedda Gabler" for The U.S. Steel Hour. He speaks of the Hollywood Blacklist as well as the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. He details writing his indispensable three volume book "A History of Broadcasting in the United States" and also directing the PBS documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945. He concludes by discussing public access television and opining on media consolidation. Dr. Ralph Engelman conducted the interview on December 10, 1998 in Fairhaven, VT.

“There were several things that I’m very proud of and I know made a difference of some sort. One of them would be having written ‘A History of Broadcasting in the United States.’ Another would be bringing out the Hiroshima and Nagasaki footage. And another one would be undoubtedly the documentary film book.”

Highlights
Erik Barnouw on his early exposure to the world of magic, writing "The Magician and the Cinema," and the link between magic and the history of broadcasting
03:18
Erik Barnouw on the history of the newsreel footage he used for the television documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945
09:34
Erik Barnouw on attending an early television demonstration at by Bell Telephone Laboratory in 1927
05:52
Erik Barnouw on some of the conclusions be came to about television advertising in his book "A History of Broadcasting in the United States"
05:30
Erik Barnouw on writing his three volume "A History of Broadcasting in the United States"
07:43
Erik Barnouw on his career highlights
02:29
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his family moving to New York when he was a child
14:06
On his teacher John Mulholland; on his early exposure to the world of magic, writing "The Magician and the Cinema," and the link between magic and the history of broadcasting; on attending Princeton University and his involvement with their theater program
14:59

Chapter 2

On his early exposure to Vaudeville, films, and radio during his time at Princeton; on attending an early television demonstration at by Bell Telephone Laboratory in 1927; on his various activities after graduating from Princeton University including writing and working for an advertising agency
14:00
On the role of advertising agencies in controlling content on radio programs; on working on a radio ad campaign for Camel cigarettes and his criticism of advertising's impact on broadcasting in his subsequent writings; on being involved with the radio show "Court of Human Relations"

Chapter 3

On the threat presented to advertising agencies by the "Tugwell bill"; on his impressions of radio programs in the 1930s; on the movement to have non-commercial radio stations
13:49
On teaching at Columbia University while writing various radio shows; on his broadcasting course at Columbia University; on memorable guest lecturers he brought in for his broadcasting course at Columbia University and on seeing the television demonstration at the 1939 World's Fair
13:25

Chapter 4

On the renaissance of radio news (led by Edward R. Murrow) and entertainment programming in the 1930s; on writing for the historical radio show "Cavalcade of America"
14:54
On how World War II impacted him and his work; on forming and heading the Armed Forces Radio Services education unit
14:15

Chapter 5

On his earliest involvement with television in production at ABC with a book discussion program from Columbia University called Seminar; on early television shows and television writers he admired, including Playhouse 90 and Paddy Chayefsky; on getting involved with writing for television by adapting "Hedda Gabler" starring Tallulah Bankhead for The U.S. Steel Hour
13:14
On the Hollywood Blacklist; on the quiz show scandals of the 1950s; on writing his three volume "A History of Broadcasting in the United States"
17:04

Chapter 6

On his book "A History of Broadcasting in the United States" having been influenced by the author John Dos Passos; on some of the conclusions be came to about television advertising in his book "A History of Broadcasting in the United States"; on his concerns about the global reach and cultural impact of American television and on directing the television documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945
13:45
On the history of the newsreel footage he used for the television documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945; on the controversy over PBS broadcasting his documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945
12:59

Chapter 7

On the broadcast and subsequent life of his television documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945; on his involvement with the Library of Congress in developing its archive for motion pictures, broadcasting, and recorded sound
09:23
On the advent of public access television; on his feelings about media consolidation; on his career highlights
07:05
Shows

Playhouse 90

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Erik Barnouw on early television shows and television writers he admired, including Playhouse 90 and Paddy Chayefsky
04:08

United States Steel Hour, The

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Erik Barnouw on getting involved with writing for television by adapting "Hedda Gabler" starring Tallulah Bankhead for The U.S. Steel Hour
02:44
Topics

1939-40 World's Fair

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Erik Barnouw on attending the RCA television demonstration at the 1939 World's Fair
01:20

Advertising and Sponsorship

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Erik Barnouw on the role of advertising agencies in controlling content on radio programs
05:12
Erik Barnouw on working on a radio ad campaign for Camel cigarettes and his criticism of advertising's impact on broadcasting in his subsequent writings
04:21
Erik Barnouw on some of the conclusions be came to about television advertising in his book "A History of Broadcasting in the United States"
05:30

Anthology Drama

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Erik Barnouw on early television shows and television writers he admired, including Playhouse 90 and Paddy Chayefsky
04:08

Historic Events and Social Change

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Erik Barnouw on attending the RCA television demonstration at the 1939 World's Fair
01:20
Erik Barnouw on how World War II impacted him and his work
05:08
Erik Barnouw on forming and heading the Armed Forces Radio Services education unit
09:04

Hollywood Blacklist

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Erik Barnouw on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:46
Erik Barnouw on the importance of the Hollywood Blacklist to understanding the history of broadcasting and on Edward R. Murrow's denunciation of Senator Joseph McCarthy
02:58

Industry Crossroads

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Erik Barnouw on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:54
Erik Barnouw on the importance of the Hollywood Blacklist to understanding the history of broadcasting and on Edward R. Murrow's denunciation of Senator Joseph McCarthy
02:58
Erik Barnouw on the quiz show scandals of the 1950s
01:04

Media Consolidation

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Erik Barnouw on his feelings about media consolidation
03:17

Quiz Show Scandals

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Erik Barnouw on the quiz show scandals of the 1950s
01:04

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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Erik Barnouw on early television shows and television writers he admired, including Playhouse 90 and Paddy Chayefsky
04:08

Technological Innovation

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Erik Barnouw on attending an early television demonstration at by Bell Telephone Laboratory in 1927
05:52

Television Industry

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Erik Barnouw on the role of advertising agencies in controlling content on radio programs
05:12
Erik Barnouw on working on a radio ad campaign for Camel cigarettes and his criticism of advertising's impact on broadcasting in his subsequent writings
04:21
Erik Barnouw on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:54
Erik Barnouw on the importance of the Hollywood Blacklist to understanding the history of broadcasting and on Edward R. Murrow's denunciation of Senator Joseph McCarthy
02:58
Erik Barnouw on the quiz show scandals of the 1950s
01:04
Erik Barnouw on some of the conclusions be came to about television advertising in his book "A History of Broadcasting in the United States"
05:30
Erik Barnouw on his feelings about media consolidation
03:17

War

View Topic
Erik Barnouw on how World War II impacted him and his work
05:08
Erik Barnouw on forming and heading the Armed Forces Radio Services education unit
09:04

World War II

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Erik Barnouw on how World War II impacted him and his work
05:08
Erik Barnouw on forming and heading the Armed Forces Radio Services education unit
09:04
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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Erik Barnouw on getting involved with writing for television by adapting "Hedda Gabler" starring Tallulah Bankhead for The U.S. Steel Hour
02:44

News and Documentary

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Erik Barnouw on directing the television documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945
16:27
Erik Barnouw on the broadcast and subsequent life of his television documentary Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945
02:09

Service Shows

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Erik Barnouw on his earliest involvement with television in production at ABC with a book discussion program from Columbia University called Seminar
06:22
People

Tallulah Bankhead

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Erik Barnouw on getting involved with writing for television by adapting "Hedda Gabler" starring Tallulah Bankhead for The U.S. Steel Hour
02:44

Paddy Chayefsky

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Erik Barnouw on early television shows and television writers he admired, including Playhouse 90 and Paddy Chayefsky
04:08

Edward R. Murrow

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Erik Barnouw on the renaissance of radio news (led by Edward R. Murrow) and entertainment programming in the 1930s
05:19
Erik Barnouw on the importance of the Hollywood Blacklist to understanding the history of broadcasting and on Edward R. Murrow's denunciation of Senator Joseph McCarthy
02:58

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