Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em: American Tobacco & Broadcast Media

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em: American Tobacco & Broadcast Media

History Hangout: Conversation with Peter Kovacs


The American tobacco oligopoly of five firms loomed large in the mid-twentieth century thanks to the addictive qualities of their products and the massive investment they made in broadcast marketing communications, influencing the media experience of millions of Americans and the wider landscape of American media for generations.  

Media historian Peter Kovacs is conducting research on the influence of American tobacco firms on broadcast media, and argues that the tobacco company sponsorship of broadcast programs on radio and television profoundly shaped the form and content of both individual programs and the broadcast media industry at large. Using Hagley’s unrivalled collection of marketing and advertising archives, including the papers of ad agency giant BBD&O, Kovacs assembles a story of corporate competition over the airwaves from the first tobacco -sponsored radio program in 1924 to the banning of broadcast tobacco advertising in 1971. 

Dr. Kovacs received support for his research from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society at the Hagley Museum & Library.

The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast.