During radio receivers which was estimated to be more

During
the 30’s and 40’s, all over America listening to the radio was
one of the most important things that one could do during the day.
(Newcomb, H., O’Dell, C., Watson, N., 1997) Across North-America,
there were more than 93 million radio receivers which was estimated
to be more then 51% of the total amount of radio receivers world wide
during the fifties. (Unesco, 1963) This made radio stations the most
important platforms of communication and information besides print
media during that time. On these radio stations aired different kind
of programs or formats, precisely catered to the audiences most
likely to be listening at that moment. The journalistic profession
was challenged as well, as news now could be broadcasted and reach
the listener immediately rather than only the next morning when the
newspapers arrived. (Whitfield, 1991) The cost of a radio became
lesser every year, making it possible for even the poorest family to
own a device. Diversity of programming and instant coverage of news,
as well as low prices were the reason Radio had become so popular. It
was the medium of the masses and everybody loved it. With its
popularity came more income, which enabled the radio stations to come
up with even more new and diverse programming (Unesco, 1963)
One
of these new forms of programming was the so called Quiz show where
listeners could call the radio station and take part in a short quiz
that would grant a prize at the end if all questions had been
answered correctly. It was a huge hit and millions of listeners tuned
in on a daily basis. It is therefore no surprise that from the radio,
America’s most popular medium at that time, the concept of game or
quiz show quickly invaded the realms of TV during the end of the
40’s. There were many formats running on the radio at that time,
but this was the most popular of them all. Contestants were picked
from all walks of life (Tedlow, 1976), making it possible for you to
become rich with your own knowledge, even if you are “just” a
housewife. This opportunity for everyone to fame and wealth is one of
the reasons why these quiz shows became so popular. It enabled normal
people that would normally would never been able to participate in a
TV program to share their wisdom about topics many had spend their
whole life’s on, such as hobbies or their work. It made people feel
special about themselves for once, and they could even win money with
it. (Tedlow, 1976) Contestants that won, before just ordinary people,
suddenly became famous, important, interesting and influential. They
became stars. Politicians and other important people liked to be seen
with winners of these shows and some of them even got offered far
better jobs than their own. Happy with their new celebrity status,
many rose out of their ordinary lives and tried to make something out
of it. The real American dream! (Real, 1995).

But
why would TV stations rig programs that were able to achieve as many
as 50 million viewers during prime time (Halberstam, 1993), risking
that the whole thing would come out?

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Real
(1995) argues, that it has much to do with a change of morale in the
field of media towards more capitalistic values and content, but also
a major change in the general understanding of ethics within the
American population. Everyone that worked on these programs, even the
contestants, wanted to win. According to testimonies, producers of
quiz shows did not care about the intellectual integrity nor did they
care about the image of their contestants at all. According to
Halberstam (1993) and Real (1995), this I no coincidence, as TV casts
everything. The demand for entertainment, politics and information
was as high as never before. Producers had to deliver something that
struck the viewer, and that’s what they did with their quiz shows.
Competition, success and knowledge are the main ingredients of
American society and the producers made sure to weave them into the
program. Contestants of the shows were mostly chosen because of their
background. Jobs that contestants had, on which viewers had to rely
on or have faith in during every day life were the ideal factor the
producers would be looking for. (Newcomb, H., O’Dell, C., Watson, N.,
1997) Television was able to create
an old trusted friend out of someone the viewer had never seen
before. Producers went to lengths in order to get these ideal
contestants on board in rigging the shows. First of all the
contestant would be told that rigging was part of the showbiz.
(Halberstam, 1993) Often they were told that what they were doing
would help a cause that was important to them, for example a Teacher
that would agree to take part in the quiz show, would thereby promote
his or her job or their intellectual
way of life. And
most importantly, who would accuse a Teacher of rigging a quiz show
by knowing too much answers? (Real, 1995)

It
has as however to be considered that these quiz shows were being
produced in a time where television was new. Formats had just been
invented and everybody was looking for a way to make money during
these booming days of Television. Wrestling, sitcom, game show, talk
show or even the news, all these formats wanted to make money, and
their network made sure they did. How they were “rigged” differs
of course from format to format but money had always been involved.
The story of this quiz show scandal is one about greed and
exploitation. Standards had been violated. Already in the 1920’s
voices started talking, about hardly needed legislation within the
field of radio broadcasting concerning advertising, but the American
government choose to favor self-regulation over governmental control.
This resulted in enormous revenue to be made by radio stations
broadcasting advertisements of large companies. Even the same
businessmen and companies that started it all for the printing media
by selling or buying advertisement space in print media, where now
interested in the broadcasting industry. Their way of work
infiltrated the field of television an they soon came up with the
Quiz show and tried to make it as marketable as possible. Network
owners that did as if they knew nothing about it, were largely
related to this scandal because of their involvement in the pressure
of turning profit. If the government had taken action then, further
legislation could’ve prevented people that are addicted to tuning
profit from betraying the American citizens in the way they did with
their Quiz shows. (Tedlow, 1976)

But,
at the time there were no laws regarding the rigging of TV Quiz
Shows. Rigging was not illegal back in the 50’s. Legislation had only
been made by the FCC after the rigging had been covered up. There
were no real criminals caught during this whole process. Nobody had
been locked up, nobody had to resign. (East, 1963) The only victim
here, was the American television audience. What the American society
would’ve needed was not TV that had been produced merely to produce
profit, but rather public service television. (Brinon, 2010)

The
Quiz show scandals where largely driven by greed for profit and
viewer-quotes. It comes all down to a new broadcasting system that
had never really seen any legislation apart from some laws that
restricted certain things such as anti-American messages or Communist
propaganda to be broadcasted on the air. (Anderson, 1978) It created
a new kind of Celebrity, made famous by appearance and success on TV
and showed us just how hard we can be deceived by persons or
companies we trust. Of course this scandal has not only brought us
bad things, as it paved the way for more hardly needed legislation
within the field of television. It also showed us that profit is
everything for some people and that journalistic profession is not
just something we can take for granted. The quiz show scandal freed
the American public of its naivety, as they’ve been deceived for many
years on the Radio and on TV. The trust had to be rebuilt, but in
America, new is always better.