The long view

Committed to the First Amendment

The go-go decade was gone. There was a Republican in the White House, a mass murderer recruiting followers abroad, and a tanking economy.

The year was 1931, the year BROADCASTING & CABLE (then BROADCASTING ) was created by veteran journalists Sol Taishoff and Martin Codel to cover the relatively new medium of broadcasting. It did not appear the ideal time to start a magazine. But it was not observation of a cloudy present but visions of a bright future that spurred the magazine's creation.

It turned out to be just the right time. BROADCASTING's fortunes rose in direct proportion to the audience's need for affordable diversion from the Depression and readily accessible news of the gathering storm in Europe. BROADCASTING became a combination national/hometown newspaper, giving voice to an industry that was virtually ignored by a print world jealous of the new competition.

Fast forward to 2001, and the present is again clouded. The communications industry, now comprising broadcasting and cable and more, finds itself in much the same position: a vital news link to the real world and an entertaining window on an imaginary one (think Bush vs. Bartlet). One change is that the media's every move is tracked in ink and electrons worldwide.

And what of the communications decade to come?

The digital revolution in TV and radio is opening a new front. Digital pioneer Woo Paik's imprint on music (CD), home theater (DVD), information processing (PC and Mac) and satellite broadcasting (DBS and the nascent satellite radio), which dominated the '90s, will finally be extended to terrestrial broadcasting. But the revolution may be more an evolution.

Just as the development of TV took a back seat to waging a world war in the 1940s, so the digital timetable could be further delayed in a world again in turmoil. But broadcasters will build it, and the audience will come.

Once the Internet has finished shaking out the everythingbutthekitchensink.coms, it, too, may evolve into a video delivery service on a scale beyond the e-mail bicycling of bizarre clips.

And who will be this decade's Sarnoff or Levin or Murdoch? It's too soon to tell, of course. Maybe it will be the age of DBS and Ergen, or of video streaming and some 30-year-old whiz still downing her Diet Cokes in all-night code-writing sessions somewhere. Or perhaps a pioneer will return to blaze a new trail. When we know, you'll know. Which brings us back to BROADCASTING & CABLE, celebrating its 70th year of chronicling the industry.

What began as a magazine has become a family of publications. We had to grow just to keep up with the multiplying offshoots of the communications family tree. In all this, our goal has always been, and will continue to be, that of the magazine's founders: to report fairly and accurately on the business of electronic communications and, on this page, to fight for an electronic press as free as print. So help us Sol!