This study examines Senator Edwin Johnson’s involvement with the television freeze in the United States from 1948 to 1952. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) instituted the freeze after postwar applications for television licenses far outstripped the capability of the VHF band to hold stations. During the freeze, Johnson, who was chair of the Senate Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, pressured the FCC to approve CBS’s non-compatible color system and to move broadcasting to the UHF band as a way to counteract RCA’s patent dominance in monochrome VHF broadcasting. To this end, the senator corresponded with the FCC chair, industry leaders, members of the media and the general public, and also set up his own committee to study the status of colour television technology. His position as commerce committee chair gave him a unique bully pulpit from which he was able to say and do things that FCC commissioners could not. Unencumbered by pressures from the industry or by congressional or executive oversight, Johnson was not afraid to make use of his status to take high-profile stands that were often at odds with the commission and, especially, powerful interests in the broadcast industry.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, available online: https://doi.org/10.1080/01439685.2017.1357254
Foust, James C., "The Paternalistic Eye: Senator Edwin Johnson and the U.S. Television Freeze" (2017). School of Media and Communication Faculty Publications. 55.
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Taylor & Francis