Thursday, February 13, 2014

Radio Man

The World Day of Radio, that is held annually on February 13th, was approved by the 26th General Conference of UNESCO on November 3, 2011. Its goal is to emphasize the importance of radio throughout the world, a fact easily forgotten in a smart-phone dominated Western society.

David Sarnoff (1891 - 1971) precociously understood the immense power of radio and even suggested, in 1950, that the United States distribute radios behind the Iron Curtain on which the Voice of America could be broadcast. Of course, as the Chairman of the Board of RCA (Radio Corporation of America), he may have had a bias toward the power of radio.

Born in Russia, Sarnoff received an early Torah education. When Sarnoff was 15, after six years in America, he was hired by the Commercial Cable Company but quit when they refused to allow him time off for Rosh Hashana. He then took a position with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, which eventually became RCA.

Sarnoff proved himself as an innovator and quickly moved up the RCA corporate ladder. Sarnoff saw the new radio technology’s potential for mass communication and worked to capitalize on radio’s great potential. In his early years, he arranged for the broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier heavyweight boxing match (1921). As he was continually promoted, he took even greater business initiatives, helping to develop NBC (the National Broadcast Company),  promoting AM radio and developing a combined radio-phonograph player. Sarnoff was also heavily involved in the development of television, and, following the Second World War, Sarnoff successfully moved RCA into the new world of television.

Utilizing his exceptional communication skills, Sarnoff served his country during World War II and, in 1945, was awarded the Brigadier General’s star.

Sarnoff retired in 1970 and died the following year.

*There remains a dispute regarding Sarnoff’s claims that he was the telegraph operator who intercepted the calls for help from them Titanic.

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