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10.a Crystal Eng as a global lang

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when US physicist Reginald A. Fessenden
broadcast music, poetry, and a short talk to Atlantic shipping from
Brant Rock, Massachusetts, USA, on Christmas Eve 1906.
Within twenty-five years of Marconi’s first transmission, public
broadcasting became a reality. The first commercial radio station
was KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which broadcast its first
programme in November 1920 – an account of the Harding–Cox
presidential election results. By 1922, in theUSA, over 500 broad-
casting stations had been licensed; and by 1995, the total was
around 5,000 (each for AM and for FM commercial stations).
9 For the history of broadcasting, see Crisell (2002).
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ENGLISH AS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE
Advertising revenue eventually became the chief means of sup-
port, as it later did for television.
In Britain, experimental broadcasts were being made as early
as 1919, and the British Broadcasting Company (later, Corpo-
ration) was established in 1922. It was a monopoly: no other
broadcasting company was allowed until the creation of the Inde-
pendent Television Authority in 1954. In contrast with the USA,
BBC revenue came not from advertising, but from royalties on
broadcasting equipment and a public licence system (eventually
the only revenue). The first director-general of the BBC, John
Reith, developed a concept of public-service broadcasting – to
inform, educate, and entertain – which proved to be highly influ-
ential abroad.
During the early 1920s, English-language broadcasting began
in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Indian Broadcasting
Company had stations in Bombay and Calcutta by 1927. Most
European countries commenced radio services during the same
period. As services proliferated, the need for international agree-
ments (for example, over the use of wavelengths) became urgent.
Several organizations now exist, the largest being the Interna-
tional Telecommunications Union, created as early as 1865 to
handle the problems of telegraphy.
There are also several important regional organizations, such as
the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the European
Broadcasting Union, as well as cultural and educational organiza-
tions, such as the London-based International Broadcast Institute.
In these cases, we find a growing reliance on English as a lingua
franca, corresponding to that found in the world of international
politics. The Asia–Pacific Broadcasting Union, for example, uses
only English as an official language.
A similar dramatic expansion later affected public television.
The world’s first high-definition service, provided by the BBC,
began in London in 1936. In the USA, the National Broad-
casting Company was able to provide a regular service in 1939.
Within a year there were over twenty TV stations operating in
the USA, and although the constraints imposed by the Second
World War brought a setback, by 1995 the total number of
stations had grown to over 1500. Ten million TV receivers were
96
Why English? The cultural legacy
in use by 1951; by 1990 the figure was approaching 200 million.
There was a proportional growth in Britain, which had issued over
300,000 TV licences by 1950. Other countries were much slower
to enter the television age, and none has ever achieved the levels
of outreach found in the USA, where a 2002 survey reported
almost one receiver per person,10 and where each person spent
almost 1,000 hours watching TV during the year.
We can only speculate about how these media developments
must have influenced the growth of world English. A casual pass
through the wavelengths of a radio receiver shows that no one
language rules the airwaves, and there are no statistics on the
proportion of time devoted to English-language programmes the
world over, or on how much time is spent listening to such pro-
grammes. Only a few indirect indications exist: for example, in
1994 about 45 per cent of the world’s radio receivers were in
those countries where the English language has a special status;
but what such figures say in real terms about exposure to English
is anyone’s guess.
A more specific indication is broadcasting aimed specifically
at audiences in other countries. Such programmes were intro-
duced in the 1920s, but Britain did not develop its services until
the next decade. The international standing of BBC programmes,
especially its news broadcasts, achieved a high point during the
Second World War, when they helped to raise morale in German-
occupied territories. The World Service of the BBC, launched
(as the Empire Service) in 1932, though much cut back in
recent years, in 2001 was still broadcasting over 1,000 hours
per week to a worldwide audience of 153 million and reaching
120 capital cities, with a listening audience in English estimated
at 42 million.11 BBC English Radio produces over 100 hours
of bilingual and all-English programmes weekly. London Radio
Services, a publicly funded radio syndicator, offers a daily inter-
national news service to over 10,000 radio stations worldwide,
chiefly in English.
Although later to develop, the USA rapidly overtook Britain,
becoming the leading provider of English-language services
10 Encyclopaedia Britannica (2002: 850ff.). 11 Byford (2001).
97
ENGLISH AS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE
abroad. The Voice of America, the external broadcasting service
of the US Information Agency, was not founded until 1942, but
it came into its own during the Cold War years. By the 1980s, it
was broadcasting from the USA worldwide in English and forty-
five other languages. Along with the foreign-based Radio Liberty
and Radio Free Europe, the US output amounted to nearly 2,000
hours a week – not far short of the Soviet Union’s total. Other
sources include the American Forces Radio and Television Ser-
vice, which broadcasts through a network of local stations all over
the world. The International Broadcast Station offers a shortwave
service to Latin America in English and certain other languages.
Radio New York World Wide provides an English-language ser-
vice to Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. And channels with a
religious orientation also often broadcast widely in English: for
example, World International Broadcasters transmits to Europe,
the Middle East, and North Africa.
Most other countries showed sharp increases in external broad-
casting during the post-War years, and several launched English-
language radio programmes, such as the Soviet Union, Italy,
Japan, Luxembourg, TheNetherlands, Germany and Sweden. No
comparative data are available about how many people listen to
each of the languages provided by these services. However, if we
list the languages in which these countries broadcast, it is notice-
able that only one of these languages has a place on each of the
lists: English.
� Cinema
The new technologies which followed the discovery of electrical
power fundamentally altered the nature of home and public en-
tertainment, and provided fresh directions for the development
of the English language. Broadcasting was obviously one of these,
but that medium was never – according to the influential views of
Lord Reith – to be identified solely with the provision of enter-
tainment. This observation did not apply in the case of the motion
picture industry.
The technology of this industry has many roots in Europe
and America during the nineteenth century, with Britain and
98
Why English? The cultural legacy
France providing an initial impetus to the artistic and commercial
development of the cinema from 1895. However, the years pre-
ceding and during the First World War stunted the growth of a
European film industry, and dominance soon passed to America,
which oversaw from 1915 the emergence of the feature film, the
star system, the movie mogul, and the grand studio, all based in
Hollywood, California.12
As a result, when sound was added to the technology in the
late 1920s, it