radio network a group of interconnected radio stations
O&O stations local radio stations that are commonly owned and operated by a network that often provides a regular schedule of programming materials for broadcast
network affiliates local radio stations that transmit network signals, but that are not owned by the network; in exchange for the transmission of their signals, the network agrees to compensate the affiliate with a portion of the revenues received from network advisers
As a result of this debate, Congress decreed in 1919 that broadcasting was to be a privately sponsored enterprise, available to any citizen who paid for a license. But radio's split from government had a catch: to ensure that dominant control of radio would remain in friendly hands, the government forced the British and Italian Marconi Company to sell its interests to General Electric (GE). The U.S. Navy then encouraged a number of American firms that owned major broadcast patents (notably American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), GE, and Westinghouse) to form a patent trust. That is, a company owned by a number of firms that is formed to share their patents in order to prevent other firms from entering their industry unless the trust allowed them to use the patents.
They called this trust the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and gave it the power to force anyone interested in setting up a radio station to pay for a radio patent. RCA, in turn, imposed conditions for the use of the airwaves; the trust quickly became the most powerful force in developing the airwaves.
U.S. courts broke up this radio monopoly within a decade, separating RCA from GE, AT&T, and Westinghouse, but not before it had shaped the new medium in ways that are still with us. The two most important consequences of this decision were:
· The development of advertising to support radio
· The creation of networks to spread advertiser-sponsored programming around
· the country
These activities led RCA and other radio firms to beg the government to exert more control over broadcasting! We'll discover why in the following sections.
RADIO AND ADVERTISING The idea of advertisements on radio seems natural to us. In 1919, though, this idea was not at all taken for granted. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover even voiced the hope that the babble of advertising would never pollute the airwaves. How, then, could privately owned radio stations cover their costs?
In the 1920s, the answer came from the suppliers, manufacturers, and sellers of radio equipment, who wanted to encourage the growth of radio in general. They set up stations with regularly scheduled programs in the more specific hope that people would want to tune in and, thinking well of the manufacturers' activities, buy the radios they produced.
Westinghouse was first—in 1920 it founded KDKA in Pittsburgh with the purpose of selling sets. RCA, GE, and AT&T also started stations during the next few years. Stores also got in on the action, using in-store stations as publicity for the radios they sold; other organizations also began radio stations as signs of goodwill. Some of the stations' call letters were self-congratulatory. Sears, Roebuck, and Co. in Chicago started WLS (it stands for “world's largest store''), the Chicago Tribune Company, a newspaper firm, started WGN (for “world's greatest newspaper"), and WSM in Nashville was begun by the National Life Insurance Company (“we shelter millions”).
However, such promotional stations didn't make sense in the long run. The cost of running a serious station with popular programming was climbing into the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars. Eventually, radio stations would turn to the sale of advertising—a practice that started in a strange way.
AT&T executives in New York became convinced they could make money through radio by letting people pay to speak over the radio—in much the same way as they paid to speak over the phone. When it didn't look as if individuals were really prepared to ante up for a chance at the microphone, the company agreed in 1922 to allow the Queensboro Realty Company to pay $3,000 for five “talks" extolling properties it had for sale. The rest, as they say, is history. Other stations picked up AT&T’s idea and rushed to sell time on their airwaves. To draw listeners, the advertisers often mixed entertainment with their commercial pitches.
THE CREATION OF RADIO NETWORKS The creation of radio networks— groups of interconnected stations—was a logical extension of the desire to attract advertisers. In the mid-1920s, as radio advertising took off, executives at RCA realized that they could encourage large advertisers to buy time on the company's several stations by linking them (O&O stations, or those owned and operated by the networks) and other stations (network affiliates, or stations that transmit network signals, but are not owned by the network) around the country through AT&T's telephone lines. The advertisers' programs could be heard by many more people, and the cash received by RCA could be shared by the linked stations.
RCA's idea came together in 1926 in the establishment of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). By that time, AT&T had sold its broadcast stations to RCA, so the company owned two stations in New York. It therefore started two NBC networks, :he Red and the Blue, which carried different programs. That same year, another network, United Independent Broadcasters, was also formed. After stumbling badly, it was reorganized under new ownership in 1927 as the Columbia Broadcasting System CBS). Though it struggled during its early months, CBS eventually stabilized and 3ecame a formidable competitor to NBC.
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