Radio Broadcasting in Fascist Italy: Between Censorship, Total Control, Jazz and Futurism


Massimo Ragnedda (2014), Radio Broadcasting in Fascist Italy: Between Censorship, Total Control, Jazz and Futurism, in Feldman, M., Mead, H., Tonning, E. (eds) Broadcasting in the Modernist Era, Bloomsbury, London., pp. 195-211

“The rise of totalitarianism in the twentieth century was closely linked to technological modernity and the formation of a mass society. The role of the radio in these developments was central. As Philip Cannistraro argued as long ago as 1972, ‘it is no accident that the birth of the totalitarian state coincided with the appearance of the modern techniques of mass communications’ (1972: 127).
Despite the complex parentage of both these quintessentially modern phenomena, the most recognizable mass communication device and earliest totalitarian state were in fact both born in Italy: Marconi invented the wireless in 1897 and, 26 years later, the Italian journalist Giovanni Amendola described Mussolini’s Italy as an experiment in ‘totalitarianismo’. Following the passage of the 1923 Acerbo Law, Mussolini had granted a broadcasting monopoly to the first Italian radio company, Unione Radiofonica Italiana, and in 1925 appropriated the term ‘totalitarianism’ to describe his dictatorship of the Fascist PNF party and interwar Italy: ‘Our formula is this: everything within the state, nothing outside the state, no one against the state’ (Mussolini in Milan; cited in Roberts 2006: 272).”

As Friedrich and Brzezinski claimed more than 50 years ago in their landmark study Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy (1956), recognizable attributes of totalitarianism include the state claiming unchallenged supremacy in ideology and party politics; dictatorial leadership and ‘terror’; and total control of national communications, economics as well as law and order (e.g. military, police and both paramilitary units, like the Squadristi, and secret police, such as the OVRA). […]



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