Talk Shows, Radio and Television

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TALK SHOWS, RADIO AND TELEVISION. The talk show has been an important programming format for television and radio since its earliest origins. On television, the earliest such program was Meet the Press, which first aired in 1947. The original host, Martha Rountree, was also the only woman in the program's history to moderate discussion as politicians and other public leaders made appearances. As television's ability to impact society grew, so did the need for expansions of the talk show format. In 1952, the Today show made its first appearance on NBC with host Dave Garroway. Soon other networks followed with similar programs, such as the

Morning Show on CBS with host Walter Cronkite. As television reached more and more homes all over the country, the talk show changed to include more entertainment and human-interest features. The Tonight Show, first with Steve Allen in 1954 and eventually Johnny Carson, established the late-night genre that remains wildly popular today. A variety of daytime talk shows have covered a number of issues with very distinct methods of delivery. Serious, issue-oriented programs like Donahue, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and Charlie Rose have been important vehicles for the discussion of important social issues. Other television talk programs have featured hosts interjecting their personal opinions to guests while fielding questions from the audience. The growth of "trash TV" began in the early 1980s with the Morton Downey, Jr. Show. These programs featured incendiary guests who would often come to blows in discussions of race, sexual preference, and infidelity. Many times the hosts themselves would become involved, as when Geraldo Rivera suffered a broken nose during a fracas in one episode of his syndicated talk program. The Jerry Springer Show became a national force in the 1990s and found itself at the center of controversy about the violence and lack of moral content on television in America. These various forms of talk shows continued to dominate afternoon television programming at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Radio talk programs evolved over the years as the daily commute to and from work became a high-ratings time slot for that medium. Talk radio programs have become an important political force. Various liberal and conservative hosts voice their views in daily programs. Rush Limbaugh became one of the most well known and well paid of these political hosts, specializing in espousing conservative views and deriding then President Bill Clinton. National Public Radio, founded in 1970, serves over fifteen million listeners and provides two popular talknews programs, All Things Considered and Morning Edition. These programs are among the most respected in radio. Many morning radio programs are known for their comic antics and, at times, offensive humor. The Howard Stern Show became one of the first programs to shock listeners and test the limits of what could and could not be aired. This willingness to push boundaries has resulted in a large and loyal audience. Sports talk shows have become an important element of regional radio programming. These call-in talk shows allow fans of various local teams to voice concerns, ideas, and opinions about their favorite clubs. Radio talk can be on the eccentric side as well, such as the paranormal and conspiratorial discussions led by Art Bell on late-night radio.


Hirsch, Alan. Talking Heads: Political Talk Shows and Their Star Pundits. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Levin, Murray B. Talk Radio and the American Dream. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1987.

Parish, James Robert. Let's Talk!: America's Favorite Talk Show Hosts. Las Vegas, Nev.: Pioneer Books, 1993.


See alsoTelevision Programming and Influence .