May 1946 Radio News
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio &
Television News, published 1919 - 1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
By 1946, radio and television manufacturers were scurrying to supply
the huge, pent-up demand for communications and entertainment systems
that accumulated during World War II. Fortunately, the dearth
of electronics components, raw materials for chassis fabrication,
and available labor was suddenly and significantly turned around
by late 1945. Wanton destruction of entire cities in Europe left
citizens without many basic creature comfort items like radios,
televisions, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, toasters, automobiles,
and other things taken for granted a decade earlier. As with any
well-executed plan, manufacturers endeavored to survey the market
demand for such products and then devised a way to satisfy that
demand. Radio News magazine published a synopsis in mid-1946
of the state of the radio and television industry in Europe so that
companies in both the U.S. and in Europe could gauge the effort
that would be required.
Report on the European Radio Industry
By Leon Laden
States manufacturers, anxious to evaluate the absorption capacity
of overseas markets for their postwar production outputs, are presented
here with a factual and up-to-date picture of Europe's present-day
supply and demand position in the radio and television field.
In Europe, as much as in the United States, manufacturers of
radio equipment are making prodigious efforts to catch up with accumulated
demands for domestic radio and television receivers created by the
long years of scarcity.
But while the volume of American radio production is slow in
starting it may by the end of the year reach a staggering total
(completed units) topping the 10 million mark recorded for 1939.1
The necessarily incomplete figures available for measuring, with
any degree of reliability, the current output of European radio
production leave but little doubt of its utter incapacity to surge
ahead and approach the comparable figure of 8 million receiving
This divergence in the respective levels of output between the
U. S. and European radio production is partially accounted for by
the disruption of all types of civilian production due to hostilities,
and the overriding needs for housing, food, clothing, and other
At the same time, however, it is also due in part to the fact
that the American radio industry is a highly concentrated and efficient
industry with an enormous home market, while the European radio
industry, dispersed over many countries and forced to purchase parts
in a closed market from firms with a monopoly position, is one of
the most woefully backward and grossly inefficient industries in
existence over here.
The Philips' factory at Eindhoven, Holland. Before the
war this plant produced a high percentage of the European
In fact, according to investigations conducted recently by Ian
Mikardo, a well-known British production expert and member of Parliament,
European radio production costs, despite considerably higher American
wages, are invariably well above those in America, but comparable
manpower efficiency figures average out nearly five times lower
in the U. S. than in Britain, eight times lower than in France and
much lower still than in Russia.
Of course, the economic utilization of labor cannot be regarded
as the sole criterion of industrial efficiency and figures comparing
output per operator, necessarily and admittedly compiled on the
basis of approximations and conjectures, must be taken with a good
many reservations even in an industry such as the radio industry
where undoubtedly a high proportion of the final production cost
is represented by labor cost.
In particular, it must be borne in mind that the American radio
industry managed to increase its output per operator-hour through
the installation of special mass assembly line machinery, geared
to produce enormous quantities of standardized midgets, car radios,
pocket radios, portable radio-phonographs, personal portables and
similar items which are of a design, size and shape less cumbersome
to make and offering greater economy in production than table and
console models which are principally in demand in Europe.
Moreover, apart from the quantity of sets turned out per operator,
quality, durability and the differing marketing conditions operative
in European countries must also be taken into consideration. If
this is done, it might appear perhaps less inefficient than sometimes
assumed to make receivers that take longer to construct but strike
a balance between production requirements and the consumers' demand
for radios lasting longer and needing less repair or maintenance.
Nevertheless, it is fully realized over here that if the radio
industries of the various European countries wish to take the brake
off production and hold their own against outside competition, their
efficiency levels will have to be raised substantially and slackness,
incompetence, obsolete plant or outdated methods done away with.
That this is generally understood is evidenced by the present
planning trend sweeping the continent and changing the traditional
production patterns of its industries. This trend, engendered, guided
and financed by the governments of most of these countries, notably
Britain and France, aims at creating centralized, state-controlled
agencies canalising the allocation of factory floor-space, stocks
of machine tools, raw materials, labor and capital investment to
manufacturing groups producing drastically reduced types of standardized
and stereotyped models from single factory units.
Comparison Between U. S. and European Standards
These comparative production figures for radio receivers
are indicative of Europe's 1946 production potential as
compared to their pre-war output.
In a way, this continent is effectively enlarging upon a trend
of production policy which originally started at the time of the
American invasion of the European radio market after the economic
crisis of 1930, when such U. S. manufacturers as HMV, Philco, and
I.T.T. established branch factories overseas, and the U. S., due
to her superior production facilities, began to exercise a rapidly
growing influence on European radio production standards by providing
the lion's share of radio importations in the different countries.
This resulted in U. S. receiver construction ideas, methods, and
techniques being studied and copied so assiduously and faithfully
over here that it is hardly possible nowadays to discern any marked
difference between domestic radio sets manufactured in the U. S.
and in Europe; especially since new developments on one side of
the Atlantic have always been followed, almost immediately, on the
other side, producing in time a uniform design and construction
pattern irrespective of the country of origin.
Obviously, there do exist salient features distinguishing radio
sets made in either of these two hemispheres, conditioned as much
by the differing transmitting facilities (with one or two exceptions,
all European broadcast transmitters are state-controlled or semi-state-controlled)
as the different listening habits of the public. These features,
however, can be summarized as being primarily related to practical
issues and, apart from comprising such minor internal layout and
build-up differences as the presence or absence of tuned high frequency
bands, the number of intermediary stages or the sizes of loudspeakers,
concern the more exacting requirements of European listeners for
outward appearance, safety of operation and length of service as
opposed to the American listeners' demand for ease of operation,
accessibility or streamlining.
Especially the "life" expectancy of sets are different over here,
and a European invariably expects a receiver, once bought, to give
satisfactory service for a period of time varying from anything
up to eight or ten years, while the U. S. citizen normally is accustomed
to discard his radio after a couple of years of service, and then
replace it with a more up-to-date model.
In contrast to the American public, people in Europe are averse
to investing in eye-catching or ornamental receivers and are against
buying radios with frequency-numbered, clock-like scales, as well
as being almost totally indifferent about internal construction
or tube types. Again, push-button and remote-control refinements
and similar gadgets are hardly of the same commercial value in attracting
the dilatory radio purchaser in Europe as in the States. Rather,
of far greater and more decisive importance is the possibility of
using a second loudspeaker, the provision for waveband changers,
adaptability to different current supplies, a linearly arranged
scale with readable station names, a housing built in good taste
architecturally, and the color of the cabinet.
Europe's Manufacturing Potential
Breakdown of European population, by country and number
of radio listeners.
Estimated 1946 television receiver production as compared
to the number of sets in operation pre-war. Figures available
for only those countries listed.
European map broken down into four distinct areas (East,
South, North, West). Radio receivers designed to be marketed
in each of these areas must meet certain specific economic
as well as technical requirements in order to be acceptable
to the populace.
The state in which the respective radio industries of the European
Continent find themselves today differs, naturally, with the differing
political, social, economic or industrial conditions existing in
the countries in which they are located.
Thus, for example, the once powerful German radio industry, which
at one time claimed to have provided 75 percent of Germany's population
and approximately one quarter of that of the rest of Europe's listening
public with radios, and the less substantial and efficient Italian
and Hungarian radio industries have all three made their exit for
the time being.
On the other hand, vigorous radio industries, capable of ministering
to their own needs on an almost self-supporting basis, have sprung
up during the war in some countries, once almost entirely dependent
on foreign importations, i.e., Switzerland.
A worthwhile radio industry has been created in Sweden, a country
with a long tradition in the manufacture of low-current apparatus,
and is now making speedy headway as an exporter, on a limited scale,
to other Scandinavian countries like Norway, Denmark and Finland,
in which special safety regulations prohibit the sale to the public
of sets not officially approved.
In predominantly agricultural countries and countries in which
the general process of industrialization still remains in its infancy
(Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Bulgaria,
Greece or the two countries on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and
Portugal), the pre-war picture has hardly changed at all and radio
production, virtually non-existent before the war, has not materially
developed beyond the original stage of making crude crystal detectors
of the cat-whisker type and simple amplifying devices.
Of all these countries, Great Britain is probably the most important
radio manufacturing country in Europe today with the largest number
of receivers per capita and a manufacturing potential which, increased
proportionally with war-time demands and based on a home market
expanded to 10,000,000 sets, is qualitatively, as well as quantitatively,
fully geared to compete for the $480,000,000 worth of radio and
television purchases and replacements this country will need during
the next five years, according to Sir Raymond Birchall, Director-General
of the British Post Office.
Moreover, Britain's radio equipment manufacturers, who once exported
their surplus output principally to British Dominion and Empire
countries, and neglected or paid very little attention to the possibilities
of marketing in Europe, are today making a determined bid to capture
a fair share of the continental market with cooperatively produced,
commercially profitable, radios and a coordinated export merchandising
policy supplemented by improved overseas marketing.
It certainly looks as if the British radio exporters mean business,
because at a time when nearly every set in the country needs a repair
of some kind and BBC estimates show that 1,300,000 receivers are
completely out of commission and 2,500,000 partially inoperative,
the British Board of Trade has announced. that of the 1,367,000
radios which are scheduled to be made by the end of 1946, 878,000
will be earmarked for the home market and 489,000 exported as against
the average annual output of 1,400,000 sets before the war of which
66,000 only were exported.
Presumably with an eye on this market there are now rolling off
British production lines well proportioned medium-class, push-buttoned
table sets with carefully arranged amplification stages, excellent
tonal output and well-matched loudspeakers; more expensive cabinet
type receivers with automatic recorders and record players; as well
as low-priced, multi-band superhets of restricted range. Invariably,
these new models contain improved tubes, components and frequency-stabilized
tuned circuits and are housed in plastic cabinets.
The prices charged for these radios are at present between 25
and 30 percent above pre-war levels but decreased production costs,
combined with design simplifications, are expected to bring down
overhead expenses and make them available to Europe's lower income
In spite of an almost equal population, France's listening public
is way behind Britain's and her radio industry - today gradually
recovering from the effects of the war - smaller and less organized.
This is due mainly to the fact that the French radio industry
- apart from such Dutch, American or British controlled concerns
as La Radiotechnique, French Thomson-Houston or PatheMarconi -
consists literally of thousands of independent workshop-like factories
making custom-made receivers differing in little else but scale
formations and similar minor details.
In order to put this radio industry on a sound basis, a comprehensive
plan has been worked out and is now being brought into operation
under the patronage of the French Government's overall industrial
$800,000,000 "Plan Council" scheme, entailing the rejuvenation of
the industry within five years through the concentration of its
manufacturing potential in groups of factories that will make strictly
standardized sets of a limited number of types. To satisfy the taste
of the French, renowned for their individuality and reluctance to
uniformity, a small number of radios will continue to be imported
It is estimated that during the five years' period, a target
figure of 6,000,000 sets will be reached, and the 1938 output within
The cost of these receivers will probably be, in the initial
stages, higher than before the war due to higher wages, increased
raw material prices and inflated overheads.
With its international ramifications in Britain, France, Germany,
Italy, Hungary, Sweden, Finland and most other European countries,
as well as branch factories in the U.S.A., Australia, Argentine,
and elsewhere, the Dutch Phillips concern of Eindhoven, has undeniably
contrived to make Holland, in spite of its physically limited home
market, one of the most important radio manufacturing countries
in the world.
Still hampered by lack of essential raw materials, a depleted
labor force and the destruction wrought to buildings and machinery,
the Eindhoven works, the biggest of its kind in Europe, is today
swinging into production at a steep pace and probably soon will
have reached pre-war levels of output.
The Soviet Union
Sprawling across nearly one-sixth of the world's land surface,
a sweep of the earth containing all the raw materials required for
the production of radio equipment, the U.S.S.R. occupies a special
position among Europe's radio manufacturing countries, due as much
to her geographical location as to the fact that the Russian radio
industry is conducted along strict state-monopoly lines.
At present, this relatively small industry is concentrating on
the mass production of single-band, 3 tube, straight receivers,
4 tube, 3 band, t.r.f. sets and 4 tube superhets, all housed in
wooden cabinets. Technically, these radios follow American construction
and layout more than European and tubes and components are usually
either direct copies produced in the country under license or else
adaptations of other versions.
Measured in relative purchasing power, prices of sets are rather
high just now, due to the supply lagging far behind the demand,
and despite enormously increased production programs for the future,
will continue to be so until more pressing needs are met and a measure
of normality has returned to this Nazi-seared country.
Television in Europe Today
Television adapters of the type popular in England. Ordinary
broadcast receivers are used in conjunction for the sound.
A modern British television receiver.
Complementary to manufacturing sound broadcasting equipment,
the European radio industry, like the radio industry of the U.S.,
early embarked upon the making of domestic television receivers.
Of all European countries, however, Great Britain alone maintained
regular television transmissions, relayed to some 20,000 set-owners,
before the war; neither France, Germany, Russia nor Italy could
claim similar services at that time and the number of sets in operation
in any of these countries never rose above 10,000.
The position is not materially changed today, and Britain is
still well in advance of other countries in the manufacture of television
receivers as her manufacturers, fully awake to the dangers of being
scooped in the international television markets by post-war competition,
at an early date carried out the preliminary spade work necessary
for putting into production the blue-printed prototypes of the models
now coming into the market at the rate of a few dozen at a time.
It has been confidentially estimated that even present acute shortage
of cathode-ray tubes will not prevent the total number of telesets
in operation in this country from increasing to at least 50,000
by the end of 1946.
Basically, these receivers are of a similar quality as pre-war
models, and are sold at prices ranging from $180 for small-sized
units to about $300 for full-sized screens. The higher priced, four-in-one
combination sets comprising sight and sound with phonograph and
automatic recording retail at approximately $700.
France, too, has made progress in television receiver manufacture
in recent years, and table models equipped with dual dials for vision/sound
adjustment and synchronising/brightness control are scheduled for
release shortly to the public at popular prices.
Similarly, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Belgium -
countries which have either resumed television production or else
are contemplating its commencement in the near future - are today
making efforts to build up markets for telesets.
Since the popularity of television is governed to a large extent
by the cost of purchasing receivers, unit sales will be precluded
from rising appreciably above pre-war figures by the material impoverishment
of Europe, as long as prices are maintained at their present levels;
a glance at the income structure of even Britain, a country still
enjoying the highest standard of living in Europe, shows that 85
per cent of her net national income is in the hands of families
with incomes below $2.000 per annum.
Accordingly, it can be taken for granted that the lower income
groups of Europe will not be able to command the use of television
unless their purchasing power is raised or prices reduced through
large-scale production of low-priced sets.
The Current Market Outlook
Europe is today bulging with customers willing to buy radio and
television receivers at almost any price and no amount of stuff
poured into this continent's markets can possibly exhaust its absorption
capacity without leaving a wide margin for additional quantities.
Accountable for this state of affairs is, in the first place,
the fact that in spite of miracles of improvisations performed in
the absence of proper tubes, accessories and parts by radio engineers,
technicians and manufacturers in some countries, few receivers were
made in Europe between the end of 1939 and mid-1945 apart from a
mere trickle of war-time civilian radios of the utility type in
Britain and junked sets and crystal detectors in France, Holland,
Belgium and elsewhere.
The magnitude of the existing potential market can be best gauged,
perhaps, if it is realized that approximately one-third of Europe's
85 million odd radios in use at the time of the outbreak of the
war are today destroyed, damaged or otherwise out of order and the
number of sets of all types needed as replacements, as well as to
fill the demand for new receivers, is reliably put at least 50 million.
No matter how anxious manufacturers over here may be to restore
the volume of their production to pre-war levels or step up beyond
it, this demand cannot be met by the European radio industry single-handed
for a long time to come; nor can it be filled, of course, by unloading
limited quantities of usable surplus radio equipment from military
Consequently, it can be anticipated that U.S.-made radios will
figure prominently in post-war European radio sales and millions
of dollars' worth of sets, imported from America, will find a ready
market among would-be buyers, unable to obtain other than inferior
quality and second-hand models at fantastic prices.
However, any U.S. radio manufacturer who intends getting rich
by pushing cheaply produced radios overseas, irrespective of whether
they are aesthetically acceptable to Mr. Babbitt's opposite number
across the Atlantic, will soon discover at his cost that a stable
export trade can only be built up when bearing in mind that a sizable
share of Europe's post-war radio market will be geographically occupied
as follows: -
1. Western Europe. Full-sized performance superhets and midget
superhets combining technically all the advantages of the normal
superhet, including its superb acoustic reproduction facilities,
as the so-called second or auxiliary set in the bedroom or kitchen.
2. Northern Europe. Economically-priced, workmanlike multi-band
receivers of medium and high-class performance.
3. Southern Europe. Low-priced, straight receivers, superhets
and midgets of effective range and satisfactory output.
4. Eastern Europe. Simple type receivers of single and double
band range and limited selectivity in which quality is subservient
1Approximately half the world's .combined total radio
production output at the time without the U.S.S.R.
Posted February 26, 2015