Radio Project

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The Radio Project was a social research project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society.

In 1937, the Rockefeller Foundation started funding research to find the effects of new forms of mass media on society, especially radio. Several universities joined up and a headquarters was formed at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. The following people were involved:

Among the Project's first studies were soap operas, known as radio dramas at the time.

The Radio Project also researched the 1938 Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds. They found that of the estimated 6 million people who heard this broadcast, 25% thought it was real. Most of the people who panicked did not think that it was an invasion from Mars that was occurring, but rather an invasion by the Germans. It was later determined that because of the radio broadcasts from the Munich Crisis earlier in the year, the masses were prone to this.

A third research project was that of listening habits. Because of this, a new method was developed used to survey an audience - this was dubbed the Little Annie Project. The official name was the Stanton-Lazarsfeld Program Analyzer. This allowed one not only to find out if a listener liked the performance, but how they felt at any individual moment, through a dial which they would turn to express their preference (positive or negative). This has since become an essential tool in focus group research.

Theodor Adorno produced numerous reports on the effects of "atomized listening" which radio supported and of which he was highly critical. However, because of profound methodological disagreements with Lazarsfeld over the use of techniques like listener surveys and "Little Annie" (Adorno thought both grossly simplified and ignored the degree to which expressed tastes were the result of commercial marketing), Adorno left the project in 1941.

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