RAVAG Studies

How to Speak Up: Governed Transmissions

RAVAG Studies

The "" (Türkenbefreiungsfeier), which was held by the Austrian Homeland Protection (Heimatschutz) in the on May 14, 1933, was transmitted on from 10:20 to 11:05 a.m. 

This went against the programming guidelines of the Austrian Radio Verkehrs AG (RAVAG), which had been bound by political neutrality since its founding in 1924. From a legal perspective, it was a private corporation, despite the majority of the company's shares being owned by state- or party-affiliated organizations.  There was party-political proportional representation on the supervisory boards and in the workforce; in addition, an advisory council with representatives of the provinces, the professional chambers, the economy, and the amateur radio clubs was intended to ensure balanced programming. 
In the role of general manager was Oskar Czeija, a trained lawyer and former civil servant who had been working toward the creation of an Austrian radio station since 1920 and knew how to pursue his entrepreneurial interests with ideological flexibility. 
The result of this party-political superstructure above the RAVAG was programming on Radio Wien that disregarded politics and religion in favor of education and sophisticated entertainment.

The "Turks Deliverance Celebration" was officially organized to commemorate the liberation of Vienna from its siege by Ottoman troops in 1683. However, these historical events merely served as a pretense for the speakers to discuss current political issues.  This is clearly shown by a short excerpt of Engelbert Dollfuss's address, which is archived in the Österreichische Mediathek, an Austrian archive for sound recordings:

With "foreign spirit," the federal chancellor was referring to socialist ideology: on the one hand the politics of Austrian Social Democracy, which were implemented primarily in "," and on the other the National Socialists, who had been ruling Germany since late January 1933 and were also threatening to take over power in Austria. Dollfuss had already declared on Radio Wien on March 13 that there was not a national crisis but a parliamentary crisis, and his government was implementing ongoing resolutions via emergency decree until a new constitution organized around professions had been finalized. 

Subsequently, the members of the federal government were regularly given the chance to speak on Radio Wien From April the was played at the end of each day's broadcasts, and the first program in the series "Homeland Hour" (Stunde der Heimat) on May 16—two days after the "Turks Deliverance Celebration"—was dedicated to the topic "1683 in the fate of Austria and Germany." 

General Manager Czeija and his employees submitted to this authoritarian course and designed a program of radio shows from spring 1933 that met the federal government's demands but in large part flew in the face of public wishes. In actual fact, the majority of listeners wanted to be neither intellectually nor politically educated by the radio, but rather above all to be entertained by it. As early as December 1924, three months after the RAVAG had started broadcasting, the Vienna Radiowelt asked its readers: "What do you want to hear?" and summarized the results of the survey in keywords in May 1925: "No politics, no stock market, no sermon!"  Three years later Franz Anderle, the editor of this radio magazine, wrote a leading article in which he called on the Viennese broadcaster to have a statistical study conducted of the wishes and composition of its audience. 

In 1931 the RAVAG finally responded to the challenge—posed not only by Radiowelt—to investigate their listeners' likes and dislikes with a series of surveys conducted in cooperation with the Department of Psychology at the University of Vienna. It started with a musical request program with almost 50,000 votes cast, which revealed that Johann Strauss was the most popular composer and his waltz The Blue Danube the most requested piece. 

This was followed by an experiment whereby listeners had to guess the appearance and profession of nine men, women, and adolescents whose voices were broadcast over the radio. 
Another survey, which focused on the reasons for canceling RAVAG licenses, came to the conclusion that almost half of the former listeners were obliged to do so for financial reasons. 
When one considers that a factory worker in Vienna earned approximately sixty schillings a week at the time, the monthly radio license fee of two schillings may seem affordable. However, the simple crystal receivers with headphones from the first years of radio were followed by tube sets with loudspeaker,  which had already become established around 1930 and whose entry-level models complete with accessories cost some hundred schillings. 

The series of studies culminated in a large-scale listener survey whose questionnaire was enclosed in radio magazines and displayed in tobacco shops in November 1931 and had to be returned to the RAVAG headquarters at Johannesgasse 4 in Vienna by December 1. 

The scientific management of the project was once again taken over by the Department of Psychology at the University of Vienna, which was opened in 1922 and whose chair was held by Karl Bühler, who had doctorates in medicine and philosophy. At the department there were three research teams: experimental psychology run by Egon Brunswik; child and adolescent psychology by Bühler's wife Charlotte, who was appointed associate professor in 1929; and economic psychology, which was also responsible for the RAVAG studies. 

After a start-up period, the latter group was officially founded by Paul Lazarsfeld as the Center of Economic-Psychological Research (Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle) in 1931. Lazarsfeld had a doctorate in mathematics and applied his statistical skills in the late 1920s as an assistant of Charlotte Bühler (though he was not paid from university funds).

He was born in Vienna in 1901 and grew up in a Jewish, liberal, Social Democratic household. His father Robert was a lawyer, his mother Sofie a well-known individual psychologist who regularly hosted salons with leading Social Democrats like Friedrich Adler, Otto Bauer, and Rudolf Hilferding. Paul Lazarsfeld became involved in the socialist youth movement as a school student, which is also where he met his first wife, the future social psychologist Marie Jahoda. 

Although the Center of Economic-Psychological Research originated in the Viennese Department of Psychology, it was organized as a non-university association under the presidency of Karl Bühler. 

The group of young economic psychologists wanted to conduct market research in Austria in the American style and in the process create paid work for themselves. After all, the prospects of finding employment at the right-wing conservative oriented University of Vienna were slim for liberal-minded, methodically innovative social scientists and humanities scholars, and for Jews it was almost impossible. The research center carried out numerous analyses of sales transactions and product decisions, as well as of movie theater visits and leisure activities in general.  However, its most famous study, initiated by Otto Bauer, the leading theorist of Austrian Social Democracy, addressed a sociopolitical problem: the severe unemployment in Marienthal in Lower Austria, which was analyzed in 1931/32 using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods and according to the study's own results brought the village to not only an economic but also a psychological standstill. 

Published in 1933 and largely compiled by Marie Jahoda, the study report Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal contains an appendix on the "history of sociography," which was written by Hans Zeisel, a lifelong friend of Lazarsfeld who had a doctorate in law. 

This essay traces the development of scientific methods for collecting data about populations, going back to the early modern period. Zeisel explains the emergence of "political arithmetic" in seventeenth-century England with the demise of the medieval social order and the growing possibilities for people and things to move more freely across territories. In an essay on the same topic published some three decades later, Lazarsfeld contrasts the British studies by John Graunt and William Petty, which he also associates with the emerging insurance industry, with the German statistics in terms of a comparative theory of the state, which was greatly influenced by Gottfried Achenwall in Göttingen in the eighteenth century. 

For the nineteenth century the historical perspectives of the texts by Zeisel and Lazarsfeld correspond, according to which the crucial progress in empirical social research resulted from Adolphe Quetelet and Frédéric Le Play. While the Belgian Quetelet attempted with his "social physics" and "moral statistics" to identify patterns in human behavior and define an "average man" on the basis of probability calculations, the French Le Play developed new methods to compile social data with his "family monographs." Furthermore, Zeisel cites the lifestyle analyses of Max Weber and the Middletown study by Robert and Helen Lynd published in 1929 as being sociographically exemplary. Contemporary American social and market research with its clipping bureaus to collect newspaper cutouts and its standardized questionnaires, however, threatened to deteriorate into "survey machinery" amassing endless data. According to Zeisel, the Vienna Center of Economic-Psychological Research avoided this wrong track by systematically interleaving statistical analyses with concept formation. 

In point of fact, neither the study on unemployment in Marienthal nor the comprehensive listener survey for the RAVAG can be accused of mere "nose-counting." 

Whereas the social-psychological research project stands out for its original combination of methods, the survey on Austrian radio is striking for its then novel correlation between the collated data. After all, the form distributed in the radio magazines and tobacco shops entitled "What do you want to hear?" contained not only questions on fifty-four program categories, which were to be answered with "more (+), less (–), or the same amount (=)," but also on the listeners' place of residence, age, gender, and occupation. 

How welcome this survey was is expressed by the remarkable response rate: although there was not much time to answer the questions and postage had to be paid by the respondents themselves, the RAVAG received some 36,000 completed questionnaires, which had been filled out by slightly over three people on average. That means that almost every tenth of the 400,000 Austrian households who had a registered radio in late 1931 had taken part in the survey. 

Statistically structuring the audience according to profession was already commonplace in Germany around 1930. 
However, the RAVAG study's final report written in 1932 divided the 110,312 listeners who had recorded their wishes on the questionnaires not only into different social classes, but also correlated these listener types with program categories. 
In other words, the statistical analysis by the Center of Economic-Psychological Research created specific target groups.

The hundreds of thousands of opinions expressed in the questionnaires had to be entered into tables by hand and analyzed using thousands of calculations. In order to portray the results intelligibly, the negative (–) votes were subtracted from the positive (+) ones. As the neutral (=) entries always accounted for roughly a third of the total, this "popularity coefficient" 

produced a clear picture of listener requests. For example, the calculated figure for topical scientific lectures among men living in Vienna amounted to +17, but among women from the provinces –11. Whereas the workers wanted to hear jazz more often on the radio (+28), this controversial genre was rejected in intellectual circles (–19).  The statistical analyses also showed that workers' spiritual interests increased with age, while the opposite trend was true for the bourgeoisie.

Overall, the most popular programs included variety shows (+67) and comedies (+45), with chamber music (–66) and literary readings (–47), for example, being strongly disliked. Less popular were also ideological lectures (–14) and topical running commentaries (–14), which could be considered to include the transmission of the "Turks Deliverance Celebration."  In the appendix to the study report, the content of the numerous letters enclosed with the questionnaires was summarized and excerpts were quoted. One frequently expressed request was evidently to broadcast the entertainment programs before 10 p.m. in the evening and on the weekend, with a tailor from the Mühlviertel in Upper Austria even sending in a complete week's program—adapted to his daily routine—to illustrate this wish. 

The complete study report on the listener survey was only published in 1996, after the fifty-two-page typescript had been discovered in Lazarsfeld's papers. 

Nevertheless, a four-page article summarizing the results appeared in the magazine Radio Wien in early November 1932.  The unnamed author assured readers toward the end of the text that the survey would have an impact on programing. For example, Radio Wien would be broadcasting more entertainment shows in the early evening, as desired by the majority of listeners. "Yet it must not be forgotten," the article continues, "that alongside entertainment and distraction, radio must also offer instruction and improvement in order to merit its cultural significance." Radio was capable of "increasingly raising the level of education of the broadest swathes" and it was down to the public not to listen "indiscriminately," but to follow certain programs with the necessary "concentration." 
Such admonitions were entirely in accordance with the RAVAG's self-understanding as a public service broadcaster, which conceived of its program in terms of a wireless adult education center. From 1933, however, this mission to educate the people was put to the service of propaganda by dictatorial regimes in Austria and Germany alike. 

That the RAVAG study from 1931/32 nevertheless had an impact is related to Paul Lazarsfeld's career path.  In his memoirs he emphasized that his interest in social classes had conceptual roots. 

In line with , the Austrian school of Marxist thought, the young social psychologist interpreted consumer and leisure behavior as part of political life: what, for example, characterized the proletarian lifestyle in Vienna around 1930? Moreover, he attempted to analyze decision-making processes to influence elections in favor of the Social Democratic Workers' Party. "Such is the origin of my Vienna market research studies," wrote Lazarsfeld retrospectively, "the result of the methodological equivalence of socialist voting and the buying of soap." 
In September 1933 he traveled to New York on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to study the American methods of social and market research. 
His original plan was to return to Austria and apply his newly gained knowledge for the Center of Economic-Psychological Research. However, due to the political upheavals in Europe and the appreciably better career prospects in the USA, Lazarsfeld decided in 1935 to remain in New York, where he went on to become one of the most influential sociologists and communication researchers of the twentieth century. 

In a lecture in Salzburg in 1974, the by then emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia University said that the early survey of Austrian radio listeners became the foundation of "what was for many years the main feature of American audience research." 

In 1937 Lazarsfeld, at the recommendation of Robert Lynd, the author of the sociological study Middletown (1929), was appointed the head of an extensive research project on radio use in the USA, which was officially connected with Princeton University but was initially carried out in Newark in New Jersey and from 1939 to 1944 at Columbia University in New York. 
Also involved in this project, which was largely financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, were a number of his colleagues from the Center of Economic-Psychological Research who had had to flee from Austria due to their political convictions or Jewish heritage, including Marie Jahoda, Hans Zeisel, Ernest Dichter, who would later become a famous motivation researcher, and Lazarsfeld's second wife Herta Herzog, who had completed a doctoral thesis under Karl Bühler in Vienna in 1932 on the aforementioned RAVAG experiment on voice recognition on the radio. 

At first the research group did principally the same as they had done in Austria, namely evaluating statistics on the radio audience's programming requests and social data in such a way that different types of listeners emerged. However, the main difference lay in the fact that in the USA these statistical analyses could be exploited for financial gain and were therefore in high demand.  While Austria and Germany—like most European states—organized radio as public service broadcasting, the American radio stations were commercial enterprises from the outset and were not funded by licenses but by advertising.  In the USA in the early 1930s, some seventeen million radio sets received the transmissions of over 600 radio stations. 

In order to use this new mass medium for targeted advertising, programs had to be sold on the stations and at the times that reached as many of the desired consumers as possible. This division of the radio audience into different target groups was a financially valuable research achievement by the Office of Radio Research. 

However, the group of researchers did not limit themselves to statistical analyses but also conducted laboratory experiments. 

Back in Vienna Lazarsfeld had already had the idea to test the plus/minus evaluation of radio programs used for the RAVAG study in experiments. In collaboration with Frank Stanton, who ran the research department of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and was the codirector of the Office of Radio Research, Lazarsfeld now developed this concept into the so-called "program analyzer" in 1937/38, which was used primarily in the 1940s. It was a polygraph to synchronously measure the program reactions of selected listeners. The test subjects sat together in a radio studio and listened to a certain radio program, which they could rate with a green (+) or a red (–) button. These reactions were recorded on a roll of paper as deviations upward (+) or downward (–). If the participants did not press either button, the line remained in the middle, which expressed a neutral attitude. On the basis of this timescale, it was possible to establish precisely which parts of the program met with approval and which were disliked. 

As it was too expensive for the Office of Radio Research to repeat the experiment several times, Lazarsfeld and Stanton sold the use rights to CBS and the New York advertising agency McCann-Erickson, where Herta Herzog and Hans Zeisel worked as head market researchers from 1943. 

Another qualitative method was developed in connection with the program analyzer that is still used in empirical market and social research today. To interpret the results, the experiment was followed by lengthy group interviews in which the test subjects were asked to explain their spontaneous reactions to the program. Lazarsfeld's colleague from Columbia University, the sociologist Robert K. Merton, made the technique famous as the "focused interview" and later as the "focus group." 
However, it has since been proven that this method was actually developed by Herta Herzog, who alongside Ernest Dichter became the most important advocate of the "" in American marketing. 

RAVAG headquarters
Results of audience survey

How to Use Reason:
Sovereign Signs
How to Capture Life:
Examining Gazes
How to Speak Up:
Governed Transmissions

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