That's right, you read that correctly: radio etiquette. There's a whole chapter in my 1941 etiquette book dedicated to telephone, telegram, and radio-related etiquette issues. I thought I'd share the bit on radio here. It's fascinating to see how people negotiated the use of new technology in social settings, just as we are negotiating the proper social use of things like iPods and cell phones today...
RADIO ETIQUETTE AT HOME
If you have planned a dinner party with the thought of listening to 'Cavalcade of America' or the 'NBC Symphony,' you will tell your guests when inviting them and choose them accordingly, keeping in mind their likes and dislikes.
It seems to me a concert or a discussion heard through the loudspeaker deserves the same attention from those who are listening in the living room as those who sit in a concert hall. Aids to listening in a living room can be helped by turning out the lights, leaving only the flickering light of the fireplace - if one has a fireplace - or if not, the light in the dial focuses the attention when it should be focused.
If your guests are not in the mood (as so often happens with the best laid plans) and prefer comedy or music or want to dance or play bridge, there is no use in being a slave to the situation... Give your guests what they want. As the evening progresses do not redouble your efforts to entertain them. Let radio do it. You can always find Spanish music for a bad case of sagging morale, romantic background music that works like a spell, even on bridge players.
If one of your guests still insists on listening to a radio program that no one else wants to hear - for reasons that may be very important to the guest - then let him hear it in another room. What cannot be helped must not be ignored but dealt with quietly and inconspicuously.
Your use of your radio should follow the ordinary rules of courtesy and consideration for others. It is as rude to let your radio blast loudly over an entire neighborhood as it would be to go out into the street, singing loudly or shouting.
When you are visiting someone else, in company of other acquaintances, never change the radio program until you have been requested to do so. No matter how boring a certain program may be to you, other persons in the room may be enjoying it.
It is quite proper to decline invitations on the grounds that a favorite radio program is on the air at the time of the proposed party. However, it would probably be more tactful to decline for some other reason, inasmuch as the person who invited you may not understand how important the radio program seems to you. She may judge its importance, as a previous engagement, on the strength of its appeal to her.
One of the most enjoyable kind of recent, informal social affairs is the radio dance. At any time, when some favorite dance orchestra is to be on the air, you can entertain delightfully by telephoning a few friends and having them in for dancing.
ETIQUETTE IN A RADIO STUDIO
With the development of radio as a type of entertainment to be seen as well as heard, and the growth of vast studio audiences, radio audience etiquette has definitely reared its head as one of the "musts" in the social life of Mr. and Mrs. Average American.
A good general rule to observe is just the good old-fashioned church etiquette (except for applause), of quiet attention. Circus audience behavior, for example, would never do: cracking and munching peanuts, humming that tune along with the orchestra are definitely out. When it comes to applause, the best type of clapping is quick and light, not the heavy slow blows which may sound louder at the moment, but don't give a pleasing result over the air. Incidentally, don't applaud too soon. Some audiences, in their eagerness to applaud, cut short the end of a musical number. This is especially true of a program like Toscanini, where the director cannot be out on stage to give the cue holding off the audience's appreciative applause until the right moment.
Clothes, too, though they don't make the audience in this case, are important. The ideal radio audience doesn't come to a show in dresses that rustle or shoes that squeak.