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The Early Days of Radio

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The Radio Industry

After studying this chapter, you will be able to:

1. Sketch the history of the radio industry

2. Explain the relationship between advertising and programming

3. Detail the role of market research in the radio industry

4. Critically examine the issues surrounding the consolidation of radio station ownersh a Discuss ways in which new digital technologies are challenging traditional radio


“There goes the last DJ/Who plays what he wants to play/And says what he wants to say Hey, hey, hey.”

Consider the enormous challenges that the radio industry faces. The home—the place where radio was once the dominant medium—has now been invaded by broadcast TV, cable and satellite TV, CDs and computer-based jukebox programs, VCRs and DVD players, computer game systems, digital music play­ers. and internet music sites—all of which compete with radio for people's attention. How well can the radio industry possibly compete for audiences and advertisers?

Although the radio business started the twenty- first century healthy, its growth in both audience and has stagnated in the face of its competition. At the same time, the radio industry is working to become an important part of the digital media revolution. This transformation will be substantial, because media powers have built the U.S. radio system to be powerful and to last. In fact, exploring radio today, you’d be hard-pressed to realize that it was once the central, most important medium in Americans’ lives. Let’s take a look.


The Rise of Radio

radiotelephony or radio the broadcast of speech and music through wireless transmission

broadcasting term referring to radio transmissions that can be widely received; originally an agricultural term meaning to scatter seed over a broad area rather than in particular places


As we noted in Chapter 10, just as records were developing, a potential competitor was emerging. Its inventors called it radio broadcasting.


The Early Days of Radio

The first radio transmitter was invented by Guglielmo Marconi in 1894, at the age of 20. Initially, he could transmit signals only over short distances, but a year later he finally succeeded in sending signals over longer distances.


Radio was not originally intended to be a medium for entertainment. After Samuel Morse developed the telegraph in 1842, scientists began to look to send messages over the air using electric waves or frequencies. In 1895, Italian Guglielmo Marconi succeeded in sending messages over long distances using the code of dots and dashes that Morse had developed.

Because the Italian government showed no interest in Marconi's find, he took it to England, where people quickly saw its value to the far-flung British Empire. The Marconi Company was formed to equip the commercial and military ships of England, the United States, and other countries with wireless telegraphy for communicating with one another and with shore points around the world.

Other inventors added to the value of the wireless radio. On Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden gave wireless operators on ships in various parts of the Atlantic Ocean a scare by broadcasting not just dots and dashes, but a speech and music, played on a phonograph. This new twist on Marconi's device suggested both radiation (dissemination) through the air and the telephone, and it got the name radiotelephony—radio for short (see Figure 11.1).

U.S. inventor Lee De Forest took the invention even further. At first, radio transmissions could be heard only through earphones. DeForest’s Audion vacuum tube, patented in 1907, made radio transmissions much clearer, and even made it possible for people to listen to the radio in groups through speakers. He envisioned stations sending out continuous music, news, and other material, and the idea came to be known as broadcasting—from an agricultural term meaning to scatter seed over a broad area rather than in particular places.


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