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Many broadcast historians customarily credit television with the public's eventual renunciation of Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his Communist-hunting tactics. Normally cited are the ABC and Dumont networks' live coverage of the Army-McCarthy Hearings and Edward R. Murrow's See It Now broadcasts during the Spring of 1954. Utilizing literature review and secondary analysis of polling and census data from 1950 through 1954, this paper suggests the live broadcasts did not necessarily achieve the results credited them by many broadcast history textbooks.

Findings suggest it is doubtful that the ABC network reached a national audience, that the audience size was as large as reckoned, and that McCarthy's favorable and unfavorable ratings were permanently affected by the hearings. McCarthy appeared many times on television after his declaration in 1950 that Communists were employed within the U.S. State Department. After the F.C.C.-employed freeze ended in 1952, television provided McCarthy with many opportunities to appear via expanding networks to burgeoning audiences. It is appropriate to suggest that television did affect public opinion, but impressions were being molded quite some time before ABC offered the public daily coverage of the Hearings that pit the U.S. Army against its adversary, the junior Senator from Wisconsin.


Submitted to the History Division, Open Category, Broadcast Education Association


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