When the President Broadcasts 

11 November 2022 tbs.pm/76410


Cover of World-Radio

From World-Radio magazine for 1 September 1933

(From our Washington Correspondent)

The excessive demands upon the time and physical capacity of a President of the United States have no better illustration than the scenes that took place in the Oval Room of the White House when Mr. Roosevelt made his last broadcast talk to the people.

It is, of course, true that as no other speeches in the history of American broadcasting have had an equal importance for the average man, much may be expected of the speaker. When the President assumed power, an unparalleled financial crisis was sweeping the country. The smallest savings account in the strongest bank was withheld from its owner. The subsequent recovery measures, with their insistence on shorter hours and minimum wages, directly affect every worker in the United States. So when the President uses the microphone to explain a new step in his programme, his audience is probably about 80,000,000 people, or two-thirds of the total population. The President, moreover, is an accomplished wireless speaker. His pleasant, sincere voice and conversational delivery create the impression that he is speaking personally to each listener. These factors, together with the sparing use he has made of wireless in a period of unprecedented political activity, make each of his broadcasts a stirring national event.

The Scene in the Oval Room

It is not surprising, then, that the demands made upon him during these talks are nerve-racking and exacting. The little Oval Room where network broadcasts are made is on the basement floor of the White House, and when Mr. Roosevelt used it for his recent broadcast, the weather was humid and the heat semi-tropical. He spoke only from 9.30 to 9.52 p.m., but it was nearly 11 o’clock before he could get away from the photographers and journalists around him. The room was described by an eye-witness as “cluttered as a street during a lumberyard fire, with electric cables instead of hose strewn all around.”

The President was seated at a specially constructed broadcasting desk. It is like the average desk in a business office except that large holes have been bored through the top to take in the wires of the four microphones — two for the National Broadcasting Company, one for the Columbia Broadcasting System, and one for sound pictures. They stand very low so that the face of the President will not be hidden when the Press photographers begin taking pictures. Owing to newspaper objections to giving so much publicity to the broadcasting companies, the initials “NBC” and “CBS” do not appear on these microphones.


Courtesy of jcm


Cameras Covered with Quilts

Surrounding the President were four sound-picture cameras covered with old quilts and blankets to deaden the sound, and five other cameras for photographs. The floor was covered with all manner of portable electric equipment and cables. Nothing in the President’s delivery, however, would have given the listener to suspect that he was being subjected to a battery of whirring cameras or to the continual glare of arc lamps.

An hour after his speech was finished he was able to escape upstairs, when a secretary told him that Mrs. Roosevelt was on the New York telephone waiting to congratulate him. The physical endurance and good humour of the President seem remarkable in view of the fact that his programme that day had included fifty-seven appointments for the morning alone.



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