“We are skirting dangerously close to taking the public interest out of the public airwaves.” —Michael Copps, FCC commissioner, 2004
Forerunners • 1. Telegraph (1840s) and telephone (1870s) • 2. Marconi: • Invented wireless telegraphy (1894)—used code, not voice • Built upon the work of Hertz • Established British Marconi (1897) and American Marconi (1899)
Radio Beginnings • Ham operators use whatever frequencies they wish • Develop their own technology • Eavesdrop on private-sector messages • Same with government messages
Congress Acts • Radio Act of 1912 • Limits amateur radio operators • Standardizes radio procedures in crisis • WWI: Congress gives radio to Navy • Navy drafts/hires young technicians • Consolidates patents • Controls frequencies • U.S. domination • Formation of RCA monopoly
The Evolution of Commercial Radio 5 stations in 1921 600 in 1923 550,000 sets 1922 WEAF (NYC) operates “toll” station An “ad” is the first income-producer Herbert Hoover decries But nobody wants to pay a license fee In 1923 AT&T broadcasts simultaneously to WEAF and WNAC (Boston). Creates first “network” By 1924, AT&T has 22 stations linked and denies rival RCA phone rights.
“I believe the quickest way to kill broadcasting would be to use it for direct advertising.”—Herbert Hoover
NBC Red and NBC Blue • David Sarnoff • First network as we know it (affiliate contracts) • Network: • Moves radio from point-to-point to mass media. • Creates programming cost effectiveness. • Makes news national, not local. • 1927: 30 million hear Lindbergh’s triumph on one of 6 million radios. • Larger budget buys better talent.
Competition for Sarnoff • First attempt at CBS failed. • William S. Paley bought CBS. • New concepts and strategies • Option time lured affiliates • Paley hired PR guru Bernays. • By the 1930s, CBS competitive with NBC
Frequency Chaos • 1927 Radio Act defines broadcast regulations. • Too many stations and poor reception • Act created commission to monitor airwaves for “public interest, convenience, or necessity” • 1934 Federal Communications Act • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) monitors radio, telephone, and telegraph. • Today FCC covers television, cable, and the Internet.
Radio’s Golden Age • Shapes television’s programming future • Sitcoms • Anthology drama • Quiz shows • Soaps • Radio pioneers single-sponsor programming.
Orson Welles • War of the Worlds, Welles’s radio broadcast 1938 • Radio version of H. G. Wells’s novel • Shows power of radio to compel • Created mass panic along the Northeast coast • NJ citizens shot up a water tower thinking it a Martian weapon. • Welles forced to recant before Congress
Radio Reinvents Itself • AM vs. FM • Niche marketing • Programming specialization • Talk radio • Format music (Top 40) • Deals with record companies • Better, cheaper technology • Portability • Efficient network alliances
The Return of Payola • Pay-for-play very similar in effect
Radio Today • Most programming locally produced • Local deejays are the stars. • Some national personalities • Ex. Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh • Secondary, or background medium • Specialized stations with particular formats • Ex. News/talk, adult contemporary, country • Heaviest listening hours drive time • Americans tune in more than three hours weekdays and six hours weekends.
PBS and NPR • Established by Public Broadcasting Act and Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1960s • Nonprofit, heavily government subsidized • NPR: distinctive niche in radio news • PBS: educational and children’s programming • Under constant attack from conservatives
Radio Giant • Telecommunications Act of 1996 eliminated most ownership restrictions in radio. • Clear Channel Communications • By 2006, owned: • More than 1,190 radio stations • 40 television stations • More than 820,000 billboard displays • Interest in 240 stations internationally
Radio Goes Digital • Internet radio • Small and nonprofit stations pay smaller royalty fees. • Satellite radio • XM and Sirius • Podcasting • Anybody can become a deejay. • Free content • Mostly spoken word
Podcasting “Just as TiVo ensured that there’d always be something to watch when you get home, [podcasting and] podcasters fill your computer with interesting music and radio-style talk shows from around the world. Unlike TiVo, though, podcast subscriptions are still free, and anyone with an Internet connection can create a show.” —David Battino, Electronic Musician, 2005
Will consolidation of power restrict the number and kinds of voices permitted to speak overpublicairwaves? Democracy and Radio