This article examines the symbiotic relationship between live radio broadcasting and the annual Tour de France bicycle race from 1929 to 1939. From its inception in 1903 through the late 1920s, the Tour was experienced primarily through newspapers. The advent of mobile live radio broadcasts in 1929 challenged the print medium’s primacy and inaugurated a mutually beneficial relationship between radio and the race. The Tour helped prove the feasibility of mobile live broadcasting at the same time as this new technology enabled the Tour to more effectively capture the audience’s attention. Radio conferred a new dimension of immediacy upon the race; live broadcasts were not viewed as representations but as transmissions of reality itself. Radio also instituted new forms of mediated sociability: listening to Tour radio coverage became an important cultural practice, both in public and private. By adhering to a fixed four-times-daily schedule during the 1930s, Tour radio coverage introduced notions of regularity and continuity into the everyday lives of regular radio listeners (who comprised approximately half of France’s population just prior to WW II), both from day to day during a given edition of the race, and from year to year. Over time, Tour radio broadcasts anchored themselves in the French cultural landscape, and memorable episodes of the race came to form the basis of a new, mediated, national collective consciousness. In this way, radio fueled the Tour’s evolution from de facto national event to national cultural institution. Conversely, the Tour helped radio anchor itself in the daily cultural practices of the French.
|Keywords:||Cultural History, Cycling, France, Media, Radio, Tour de France|
Associate Professor, Modern and Classical Language Studies, Kent State University, Munroe Falls, OH, USA