At the time this article appeared, Robert B. Howell was the Republican candidate for senator from Nebraska -- an election which he would win, for the first of two terms in the U.S. Senate. In 1924, Howell proposed broadcasting Senate sessions by government radio stations, according to Senate historian Richard A. Baker in Senate Historical Minute, but this proposal wasn't implemented until decades later, when C-SPAN began operations. Howell was also a pioneer broadcaster, having received a licence for WOU in Omaha, Nebraska in December, 1921. (This station was deleted 1½ years later).

In this article, "Hungary's Telephone Newspaper" is a reference to the Budapest "Telefon Hirmondó", which appears to have particularly impressed Howell during a visit in 1921.

 
Popular Science Monthly, October, 1922, pages 65-67, 107:

Why  I  Believe  in  Government  Radio

Famous  Advocate  of  a  National  Broadcasting  System  Says  It  Would  Improve  Wireless  Programs

By  Charles  E.  Duffie
"WE ARE only playing with radio today. I may startle most people by my assertion, yet I firmly believe that in the practical application of the radiotelephone--especially for broadcasting news over wide areas--Europe has been in advance of the United States. Here, we have developed the receiving end to an almost fantastic degree, but the broadcasts received here have been largely in the nature of amusing vaudeville, and in the past few months there has been no lack of rumors from the public that this type of amusement is losing its appeal. Europeans, on the other hand, have had the broader vision of perceiving that the really magnificent future of radio lies in the spread of news and vital information." R.B. Howell
    These are the words of a man whose opinion is going to count mightily in the next few years. He is R. B. Howell, general manager of the successful Municipal Water Works and Gas Works of Omaha, Nebr., the Republican nominee for Senator from Nebraska this fall, and probably the leading advocate of government broadcasting in this country. Himself a radio amateur and engineer of note, who has operated his own broadcasting station in Omaha, Mr. Howell, through an official investigation of the broadcasting situation here and abroad, made for the United States government, has had an unparalleled opportunity to acquire a definite picture of what radio may ultimately mean to the public.
    A very common question lately, among users of home radio sets, has been, "What sort of broadcasts are we going to receive this fall?" The question reflects a prevalent discontent with the indiscriminate competitive jumble of phonograph music, uninteresting lectures, and disguised advertising talks, which have, in part, made up many programs.
    There are those who believe that the only possible solution of the situation lies in government broadcasting, and the most famous of all advocates of this belief has been Will Hays, formerly Postmaster General, and now so-called Dictator of the Movies. But while Mr. Hays gave to the idea, for a time, the prestige of his name and official position, his jump into other fields has silenced him on this subject, leaving Mr. Howell indisputably the country's most capable and best informed booster of a national system of broadcasting by Federal and state agencies.
    It was Mr. Hays who, a year ago, sent the Omaha utilities expert abroad on his mission of radio investigation. In the following interview given to me for POPULAR  SCIENCE  MONTHLY, Mr. Howell tells for the first time to the American public as a whole the results of his investigation, and the reasons that make him an ardent advocate of government broadcasting.
    "In Europe--especially in Germany--I found that the control both of sending and receiving stations was entirely regulated by the government," said Mr. Howell. "The German plan is to broadcast news of different kinds on different wave lengths. The German Post Office plans to sell, adjust, and maintain receivers that will be set to respond to but one wave length. Thus the subscriber, if he wishes to hear financial news, may hear that kind of news only--and he will pay a certain sum for the service; or he may have several receivers and get all the broadcasts.
    "In this country, of course, it is impractical to try to exercise control of receiving sets. Such control is not in harmony with our ideas of popular government; and if it were, there are now so many sets in operation that an attempt to restrict them would cause an uproar.
    "But we must follow our ideas of free and unrestricted receiving to the logical conclusion, and this, to my mind, means broadcasting by the government itself which is the only logical agency for this work. In the first place, the government has the greatest vested rights in radio. Furthermore, during the world war, the government practically financed the experiments that have led to today's perfection in radio apparatus. Private enterprises control the radio patents, but the government controls the ether!

Necessity  of  Close  Control

    "In the two conferences held by the nations of the world to allocate wave lengths, the United States asked for but 35. These, for the use of a nation of 100,000,000 people, mean that if radio is to be a great public utility (which it will be if properly handled), sending apparatus must be closely controlled.
    "The erection of transmitting stations would not exceed a cost of two cents a square mile of territory served.
    "Such a radio broadcasting service must include, in addition to news bulletins, market and weather reports, other features, such as short stories, discussion of popular current topics, and music and other entertainment of the highest type.
A   NATIONWIDE  government  broadcasting  ser-
vice  would  become,   in   its   way,   as  important  to
the  public  welfare  as  is  the  Postal  Service  today.

    "As an instance of what might be accomplished, I believe that a telegraphone can be used to record Metropolitan grand opera in New York or elsewhere, the reels of thin wire then being sent in turn to the various transmitting stations, all at the cost of one recording. Necessarily, such a service would require a central staff of highly competent experts to prepare and edit programs.
    "Only the government, in my opinion, can operate such a national service without hopeless conflict between stations, and the rational operation of a government-owned 'radio' newspaper would bring wonderful results."
    Mr. Howell's interest in radio began when, in 1908, he entered the fight to allow Omaha to buy the then privately owned water plant. Being powerfully opposed in his course by one of the newspapers, he was eager for some means of securing publicity, other than the usual sources at his command. Remembering that he had read of the slight success of the radio-phone in the navy, he wrote to Admiral Kountze, an old classmate, and inquired as to the practicability of the radio transmitter. The reply was, in effect: "Great future, not practical now, as it is little more than a scientific toy."

Hungary's  "Telephone  Newspaper"

    He never lost interest in radio, however, and on March 4, 1921, while lunching with Postmaster General Hays, suggested the publication of a radio newspaper by the government, touching on the success of the so-called "telephone newspaper" of Budapest, where such a paper had been "published" for more than 25 years. Mr. Hays immediately expressed great interest. In less than six weeks, the government began to broadcast weather and market reports from the air mail stations, by radio-telegraphy. The Radio Service Commission was soon after appointed, with Mr. Howell as chairman, and he sailed for Europe September 3, 1921, to investigate radio- and wire-telephone broadcasting.
    Recounting in his talk with me some of the things he learned about European broadcasting, Mr. Howell described a novel experiment in Holland. "On the fifth of January, 1921," he said, "the Amsterdam Bourse began the broadcasting of Bourse news and quotations to some 200 banking and brokerage houses throughout Holland. It was a coöperative enterprise, each banking house contributing about eight dollars a month for the service, which includes the supplying, installation, and maintenance of a receiving station.

How  Europe  Does  It

    "An interesting form of receiving station developed by the Germans for their post office broadcasting service includes an electric bell, calling subscribers to the phone when special news outside of the regular schedule is about to be transmitted.
    "The Hungarians have done little with the radiotelephone, but in Budapest there is a highly interesting development in the form of a telephone newspaper that is now in its twenty-eighth year of publication. This enterprise consists of 42 party lines, serving some 6000 subscribers. Each station has two or more receivers, but no transmitting apparatus. It is the stentor at the central office who does all the talking over this system of wires, and is heard by all subscribers at one and the same time. The transmission of news begins at nine o'clock in the morning and is carried on throughout the day in accord with a fixed schedule, so that any one interested in a particular class of information knows just when to listen in. In the afternoon a short story is offered, or a chapter from a continued story. At four-thirty the concert of the Imperial Band begins, transmitters being placed about the band stand. While in the offices of this unique newspaper, about five o'clock one afternoon, I heard the stentor announcing the personnel of the artists who were to sing at the Budapest Opera House that evening, and later, at the home of the manager of this newspaper, I enjoyed the privilege of listening to Wagner's 'Die Walküre,' in common with other subscribers throughout the city.
    "All that has been done of this character with the wire telephone can be done with the wireless telephone. While Will Hays was Postmaster General, he conceived a concrete plan for the installation of radio broadcasting stations throughout the country, say about 400 miles apart, so that weather and market reports, news bulletins, and, incidentally, amusement, might be afforded to our widely scattered population in their own homes. Under this plan, each listener would provide his own apparatus, while the government would bear the expense of the installation, maintenance, and news service of the transmitting stations.
    "But to be successful, the service would have to be dependable. Stations must be powerful enough to 'get through' under all conditions; and this means high power--much higher power than is used at present. In Europe it has been demonstrated that powers of one kilowatt and upward must be used to insure successful transmission over a distance of 100 miles or a little more. In this country, 15-watt sets have been heard 1000 miles, of course, but this is 'freak' reception.
    "These are some of the reasons why I believe government broadcasting will be the only finally successful plan."
    It is an almost staggering vision of public service that Mr. Howell sees as the ultimate goal of broadcasting. And if he is elected to the Senate this fall, we shall have one real radio man in Congress, and one who frankly states that he will put up a fight for the great government broadcasting system in which he believes.
 
Washington speechTHE enormous power of loudspeakers now available is illustrated by the above photo of the famous scene when President Harding delivered his inaugural address. Investigation of audibility made it possible to plot the exact range of the amplifiers, as indicated in the picture.
    It is remarkable that while the President's words were carried distinctly to listeners on the outskirts of the crowd, they were not made to sound too loud to people directly under the amplifiers. The reproduction of his voice by the loudspeaker was so perfect that those in the first row could not tell where the natural voice left off and where the amplified voice began. Walking away in a straight line from the platform, one could have detected no change in tone and but small variation in the volume.
    Under a completely national system of government radio broadcasting such as that proposed by Mr. Howell in the accompanying article, it has been suggested that important public addresses and debates on vital practical problems, like the bonus, tariff, and prohibition, would be broadcasted over the whole country from Federal transmitting stations, and received not only by home radio users on their own sets, but also by huge crowds like the above, gathered around loudspeaking installations in the parks and other public meeting places of big cities.