The Problem With Television Is That the People Must Sit and Keep Their Eyes Glued on a Screen; the Average American Family Hasn’t Time for It

The New York Times? Orrin E. Dunlap Jr.? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Wildly inaccurate predictions are always amusing. Apparently, an article in “The New York Times” contended that television broadcasting would never surpass radio broadcasting because people would never be willing to sit and stare at a screen for hours on end. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: In 1939 “The New York Times” printed a piece titled “Act I, Scene I: Telecasts to Homes Begin on April 30—World’s Fair Will Be the Stage” by Orrin E. Dunlap Jr., a journalist who specialized in covering the radio industry. Dunlap spoke to the program director of the National Broadcasting Company who discussed the challenges of the new entertainment format. The intimacy of the television medium required a different style of performance. Broad theatrical gestures were unappealing to audiences. Newsman Dunlap also articulated the skepticism of radio broadcasters. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it. Therefore, the showmen are convinced that for this reason, if for no other, television will never be a serious competitor of broadcasting.

Dunlap correctly noted that radio allowed people to “listen and go about their household duties and routine”. Yet, that advantage was insufficient to hold back the burgeoning television age.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Problem With Television Is That the People Must Sit and Keep Their Eyes Glued on a Screen; the Average American Family Hasn’t Time for It

Notes:

  1. 1939 March 19, The New York Times, Act I, Scene I: Telecasts to Homes Begin on April 30—World’s Fair Will Be the Stage by Orrin E. Dunlap Jr., Quote Page 14, Column 2, New York. (ProQuest)