It has been amusing to read this week how sceptical H.G. Wells was of the BBC and broadcasting in general. “Broadcasting shouts out its information once and cannot be recalled.” Anything broadcast immediately disperses like smoke in the wind, he opined. Why would you pay attention to this when you could read a book by a great mind, and why would you ever listen to music on the radio when gramophone records were available?
If there was any audience at all for the airwaves, it would inevitably consist of “the blind, lonely and suffering people” — or “probably very sedentary persons living in badly lighted houses or otherwise unable to read, who have never realized the possibilities of the gramophone and the pianola and who have no capacity for thought or conversation.”
So wrong, and yet somehow so right.
One of Wells’s more prescient critics pointed out however that “he evidently hankers to listen constantly to the great, when a simple mathematical calculation would show that this would not be possible. There are not enough great people in the world.”