7:30 p.m., 6 June 1933, Britain: The stylish sound box on the cabinet, with state-of-the-art speakers, as well as the home-made radio set, delicately balanced to keep its batteries from leaking, are bursting into song. The crash of the stock market has been very good for the culture of listening. The years 1930 to 1932, the bottom of the Depression, have seen a rise in the sales of radio sets, while the consumption of all other household goods has dropped sharply. Radio has become a source of consolation for 2.3 million license holders and uncounted home-made set owners. The British Broadcasting Corporation, which legislatively enjoys total monopoly over the airwaves, has taken this trend as an auspicious sign. It has strengthened its resolve to replace the familial small talk at the hearth with purposeful and high-minded conversations that would prepare everyone,...

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