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Popular Radio: History of Technology. 1844: Samuel F.B. Morse introduces the telegraph: interrupt a wired electrical signal in code. 1873: James Clark Maxwell theorizes the electromagnetic spectrum.

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Popular Radio: History of Technology

1844: Samuel F.B. Morse introduces the telegraph: interrupt a wired electrical signal in code.

1873: James Clark Maxwell theorizes the electromagnetic spectrum.

1876: Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone: modulated wired electrical signal allows for voice transmission.

1888: Heinrich Hertz sends first electromagnetic signal in the laboratory.


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Popular Radio: History of Technology

Guglielmo Marconi: First practical wireless telegraphy, 1894

Forms British Marconi, 1897

First signal across English Channel, 1899

First Transatlantic signal, 1901

Marconi monopolizes wireless telegraphy

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Popular Radio: History of Technology

1906: Lee DeForest refines the vacuum tube as the Audion (three elements); allows for amplification of the signal, increasing volume and distance.

1906: Reginald Fessenden sends first broadcast voice transmission (Westinghouse) from Brant Rock, MA.

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Popular Radio: Radio Corporation of America

By 1914, Marconi Wireless of America dominates wireless telegraphy. In the wake of World War I, the U.S. government seizes all assets: patents and stations. In 1919, the government facilitates the formation of Radio Corporation of America, owned jointly by General Electric, Westinghouse, AT&T and the United Fruit Company to control wireless.

David Sarnoff at the telegraph during the sinking of the Titanic. He is appointed general manager of RCA in 1921.


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Popular Radio: The 1920s-1930s

1920: First licensed broadcast by KDKA, Pittsburgh (Frank Conrad for Westinghouse.

1922: First “commercial” broadcast (WEAF, NY) by AT&T, toll broadcasting.

1926: Establishment of NBC Red and Blue networks by RCA; AT&T gets out of broadcasting.

1927: Establishment of United Independent Broadcasters( becomes CBS with William Paley, 1928).

1934: Establishment of Mutual Broadcasting System (by remaining major independent stations).


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Popular Radio: Legal Issues, 1912-1943

1912: First Radio Act in response to sinking of Titanic.

1919-1934: RCA is government monopoly in wireless.

1926-27: Government regulation of radio denied by Supreme Court: “Age of Chaos.”

1927: Radio Act establishes government regulation of radio: discretionary power

1934: Communications Act (F.C.C.)

1943: Duopoly Rules in wake of U.S. v. NBC. NBC forced to sell one network (Blue --> ABC) and CBS must loosen ties with affiliates.


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Popular Radio: Programming

1920s-1930s: Development of most program formats: variety shows, dramas, series, serials (soap operas). Radio produces its own stars and programs, including Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Jack Benny and The Lone Ranger.

1938: Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater of the Air presents “War of the Worlds” demonstrating the power of radio.

1940s: Radio becomes dominant in breaking news during WW II.

1940s: First disk jockey programs (lack of musicians): Make Believe Ballroom


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Popular Radio: Technology to present

Transistor (1947): Radio becomes portable

Frequency Modulation (FM) invented by Edwin Armstrong (1933): reduced static and regularized channel size; eventually allows for easy adoption of

Stereo for FM broadcasting (1962).

Satellite delivery (NPR, 1972) allows for increased ease of national program networking and syndication

Digital Audio Broadcasting (1990s): Digitized signals deliver “CD quality” sound.


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Popular Radio: Programming

1. Localization of programming: use of recorded music and disk jockeys; local news predominates.

2. Localization of advertising: National ads went to television.

3. Top 40 formats: Limited playlists (replicates a juke box).

4. Rock ‘n’ Roll and the youth market

5. Discovery of FM (1967, Non-duplication).

6. Specialization in formats, daypart (mornings and afternoons), new forms of networking (limited).

7. Rebirth of national programming (1980s): Satellite delivery to provide programs for smaller markets; esp., Talk radio, sports


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Radio Formats

80s Hits New AC (NAC)/Smooth Jazz

Active Rock New Country

Adult Contemporary (AC) News/Talk/Information

Adult Standards/MOR Nostalgia

Album Adult Alternative (AAA) Oldies

Album Oriented Rock (AOR) Other

All News Pop Contemporary Hit Radio

All Sports Religious

Alternative Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio

Children’s Radio Rhythmic Oldies

Classical Soft AC

Classic Country Southern Gospel

Classic Hits Spanish Contemporary

Classic Rock Spanish News/Talk

Contemporary Christian Spanish Oldies

Contemporary Inspirational Spanish Religious

Country Spanish Tropical

Easy Listening Spanish Variety

Educational Talk/Personality

Ethnic Tejano

Gospel Urban AC

Hot AC Urban Contemporary

Jazz Urban Oldies

Mexican Regional Variety

Modern AC


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  • Alternative Radio

  • National Public Radio

  • Community Radio (Pacifica, KRAB Nebula)

  • Low Power FM Radio (LPFM)

  • Pirate Radio

  • Internet Radio

  • Satellite Radio (XM, Sirius)


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Popular Radio: Current Trends

  • 1. Ownership limits lifted (F.C.C. and Telecommunications Act of 1996 encourages concentration locally and nationally: Clear Channel)

  • Programming homogenization: Increased specialization within a few popular formats (rock, country, etc.) leads to little overall diversity in available music and informational programming.

  • Satellite Radio: Will this form of signal delivery (better sound at increased use of electromagnetic spectrum) lead to the death of local radio broadcasting?

  • Digital Audio Broadcasting