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Chapter 6: Popular Radio & the Origins of Broadcasting. The Story of Radio. Innovators in Wireless communication. Expanded the range of earlier technologies from narrowcasting (person to person) to broadcasting (transmission from one point to many).

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Chapter 6: Popular Radio & the Origins of Broadcasting

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the story of radio
The Story of Radio

Innovators in Wireless communication

Expanded the range of earlier technologies from narrowcasting (person to person) to broadcasting (transmission from one point to many).

  • Inventors tinkered with the telegraph beginning in the 1840s – Samuel Morse
  • Starting with the theory of the existence of radio waves by James Maxwell, 1860s
  • Heinrich Hertz 1880s attempted to prove Maxwell’s theory using electrical sparks that emitted electromagnetic waves
marconi the father of wireless telegraphy on the shoulders of alexander popov and nikola tesla
Marconi: The Father of Wireless Telegraphy on the shoulders of Alexander Popov and Nikola Tesla

Italian engineer, Guglielmo Marconi in 1894 devised a way to send large amounts of data from a transmitter to a receiver.

Patented wireless telegraphy in England in 1896


Radio’s Development Stage, wireless telephony

the first voice broadcast
The First Voice Broadcast

Reginald Fessenden

Lee De Forest in 1906 invented (perhaps with others) the Audion vacuum tube which detected & amplified sound.

Hailed as the origin of modern electronics.

  • General Electric & US Navy
early regulation of wireless radio
Early regulation of wireless/radio
  • The U.S. government realized the potential for radio to influence opinion, change the economy, and military affairs.
  • Radio waves were determined to be a shared resource for the “public good”.
  • Congress passed laws regulating the public airwaves to determine the extent to which private businesses could take part in the industry.
milestones in legislation
Milestones in Legislation
  • Because radio waves crossed borders, they were deemed to be a part of interstate commerce.
  • Radio waves could not be privately owned.
  • 1910 Wireless Ship Act (following the Titanic disaster) ships had to be equipped with wireless transmission equipment.
  • Radio Act of 1912 made all radio stations obtain a license and get call letters.
national security
National Security
  • Government concerns about access to point to point transmitters brought changes to who could manufacture wireless components.
  • WWI heightened concerns about wireless accessibility.
    • Shut down amateur radio operators
  • U.S. gained control over the emerging wireless infrastructure.
radio corporation of america
Radio Corporation of America
  • 1919 saw the creation of a private company which would have government approval to monopolize the radio industry.
    • U.S. Navy and General Electric.
  • This company would acquire American Marconi and radio & wireless patents from AT&T.
  • Positioned RCA to expand radio technology.
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  • Frank Conrad (worked for Westinghouse) set up a radio studio and broadcast music to a couple friends.
  • Westinghouse is credited with starting the first (for profit) radio station in Pittsburgh.
  • U.S. Dept. of Commerce began licensing & by 1923 more than 600 commercial and non-commercial stations, a year later, 5.5 million radios were in use across the country.
  • Private industry positioned radio to take off as a commercial enterprise.
  • Radio stations reached ever larger audiences.
  • Networks were centralized, enabling radio stations to cut costs and share programming
at t making a power grab
AT&T: Making a power grab
  • By 1922, RCA and AT&T were viewing each other’s turf.
  • AT&T monopolized telephone lines but wanted to break into the “wireless” business.
  • AT&T in violation of agreements began to manufacture radios.
    • Started WEAF (now WNBC)
  • Began toll broadcasting (paid commercial ads) and organized a network of affiliates.
national broadcasting system
National Broadcasting System
  • In 1925, the DOJ took AT&T to court and ultimately the network was sold to RCA.
  • AT&T retained its telephone business (long lines).
  • NBC created by David Sarnoff was jointly owned by RCA, GE and Westinghouse.
    • RCA red network subsidiary (original AT&T)
    • RCA blue network (jointly owned)
columbia broadcasting system
Columbia Broadcasting System
  • William Paley bought the Columbia Phonograph Company in 1928 & renamed CBS.
  • Paid its affiliates to carry CBS programming.
    • Netted more than 90 affiliates by 1933.
    • Began to invest in top talent, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra.
the radio act of 1927
The Radio Act of 1927
  • Growth of network affiliates led Congress to enact a variety of regulatory measures to bring order to the growing industry
  • Radio stations cross frequencies & reception was difficult.
  • Radio Act of 1927 now stations had to reapply for licenses & licenses could be revoked
  • Federal Radio Commission overlooked industry for compliance to regulations.
  • Federal Communication Commission in 1934.
radio content
Radio Content

the golden age of radio
The Golden Age of Radio
  • Lasted from 1920s-40s.
  • Variety of programs reflected American culture.
  • Popular programs included Amos n Andy, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, & Fibber McGee and Molly.
  • Variety shows featured music and comedy skits.
  • Quiz shows and Dramatic programs.
amos n andy
Amos ‘n’ Andy
  • Highest rated program in history.
  • Created by Charles Correll &

Freeman Gosden in Chicago.

  • Derived from 1800s minstrel

shows depicting black characters

as shiftless & lazy.

  • Considered racist by many.
  • TV show cast black actors.
the authority of radio
The Authority of Radio
  • Orson Welles’s radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, aired in 1938.
  • Some misinterpreted the show to be an actual news story.
  • Resulted in radio programs having to disclaim their content.
  • Actual effects were over-blown but showed how mass media influenced public behavior.
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Amos ‘n’ Andy

War of the Worlds

the evolution of radio
The Evolution of Radio
  • TV eclipsed radio’s popularity in the 1950s.
  • To maintain a competitive edge, radio adapted to the times.
  • Invention of transistors – made radio portable.
  • AM (amplitude modulation) and FM (frequency modulation) – provided greater clarity & resonance.
  • American inventor Edwin Armstrong credited with developing FM.
breakdown of radio station formats
Breakdown of radio station formats

This graph shows a nearly equal distribution of the listening pie.

nonprofit radio npr
Nonprofit Radio & NPR
  • Wagner-Hatfield Amendment to the 1934 Communications Act set aside 25% of radio for nonprofit stations.
  • Stations that did not have an affiliation with labor, religion, education, or civic groups.
  • First license went to Pacifica Foundation.
  • FCC approved 10 watt FM stations many were used by students interested in broadcasting careers.
  • Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 allowed for creation of PBS and National Public Radio.
radio goes digital
Radio Goes Digital
  • Internet radio – existing stations “stream” a simulcast of their on-air signal.
  • Satellite radio – a “third” band, Sirius XM.
  • Podcasting – developed in 1994, combined pod from ipod and broadcasting.
  • HD radio – FCC in 2002, uses a compressed digital signal to broadcast along with AM & FM analog signals.
the economics of commercial radio
The Economics of Commercial Radio
  • Today, radio remains a popular mass medium, with 93% of citizens age 12 or older listening every week (p. 182).
  • Money in- revenue from advertising.
  • Money out – paying for content related expenses.
  • Payola- paying DJs or radio stations to play a record label’s songs.
deregulation in the 1990s
Deregulation in the 1990s
  • 1996 Telecommunications Act – no limits on the number of stations owned except 8 in a single market.
  • Marketplace Concept replaced Government as Trustee ideal.
    • Loss of the Fairness Doctrine
    • National Association of Broadcasters continues to lobby Congress to slow changes to the structure of radio.
Corporate Radio: CC & CBS own around 8% of all U.S. commercial radio stations & control 25% of industry revenue.
radio in a democratic society
Radio in a Democratic Society
  • Radio industry continues to lobby Congress for favorable changes to regulation.
    • More stations.
    • Radio frequencies.
    • Loss of localism due to corporate ownership
    • Consolidation has dire implications for free and open expression of views and opinions.
    • What will happen in the long term to our democratic institutions?
censorship talk radio
Censorship & Talk Radio
  • Should talk-show hosts be able to say anything they want on the radio?
  • Is it important to air all potential issues over the airwaves, even if those issues might upset some listeners?
  • Do all potential topics contribute to democracy?
  • What kinds of things shouldn’t be said or discussed on the radio?
entertainment or bigotry
Entertainment or Bigotry?