A Brief History of Radio, page 3


The convergence of talent, advertising sponsorships, and technological advancements in radio receivers, coordinated by the formation of radio networks, brought about the Golden Age of Radio (considered to be the period from 1930 through the late 40s.)

The Golden Age of Radio saw the formation of new types of entertainment: radio plays, detective serials, soap operas, quiz shows, variety and talent shows, situation comedies, children’s shows, comic strip adaptations, live music concerts, live sports events, news and news headlines, weather reports, remote/field reporting, sidewalk interviews and panel shows all began in radio.

The Golden Age of Radio relied heavily on talent from vaudeville and Hollywood. Early radio stars included: Abbott and Costello, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Red Skelton and many more. In the mid-1950s many of the top radio shows made the move to Television (I Love Lucy, The Adventures of Superman, Gunsmoke, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Dragnet, The Jack Benny Program, Perry Mason, Guiding Light, The Lone Ranger, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show were some of the more popular radio shows to make the transition.)


Prior to World War II, virtually every radio program was broadcast live. After the war, technological advances in recording techniques—both 33 vinyl pressings and reel-to-reel magnetic tape–were used to usher in pre-recorded broadcasts and establish the program syndication market.


Television was lurking in the background in the late 1940s. As of 1950, only 9% of American households had a TV set, but by 1960 household penetration grew to 90%. Once again, technology kept radio relevant. TV viewership was confined to the home. Radio was able to garner the audience when they were away from home.


The first automobile radio debuted in 1930. By the late 1950s, radios were very much a standard accessory in automobiles, helping to offset TV’s soaring popularity inside the home.


The transistor was invented in 1947 and shortly thereafter, in 1954, the transistor radio—a battery operated, portable receiver was marketed. In 1955, a small Japanese company released their first transistor radio, a move that established Sony as a brand.


Edwin Howard Armstrong is credited with the birth of FM Radio in 1933. FM (frequency modulation) was created to overcome the radio-frequency interference problems AM radio was subject to. It wasn’t until the 1960s that FM radio became viable. AM radio stations began acquiring FM licenses to limit competition and would simulcast their AM programming on their newly acquired FM station. In the 1960s the FCC introduced a rule that prohibited owners of AM and FM stations from simulcasting their content in an attempt to increase variety of programming and generate FM listenership. In order to provide content for their FM stations that differed from that on their AM stations, station owners turned to syndication to keep costs down. One of the early syndicators was Drake-Chenault which provided FM stations with programming that included Classic Gold, Solid Gold, Hit Parade, Great American Country and the History of Rock and Roll. In 1979 FM overtook AM in listenership.


Satellite Radio began in the U.S. 2001 with XM radio followed shortly thereafter by Sirius Radio. Satellite radio is known for its diversity (sort of the cable TV equivalent of radio), its commercial free—for the most part—subscription-based broadcast model and Howard Stern, the first big name DJ to jump from terrestrial radio to satellite radio in 2006.


Internet radio began in 1995 with the creation of NetRadio.com. Today, while many Internet radio stations are offshoots of terrestrial radio stations, there are 1000s which are Internet only. Podcasting, a form of Internet radio, started gaining traction in 2004 and today is very high profile.


Today, webcasts stream content to a worldwide audience in real-time and on demand. It has never been easier to create and distribute content. Today, thanks to technology, with just modest funds, a bit of know-how, some creativity and lots of hard work, anyone can be a ‘radio station’ or even a TV station and distribute their ideas, their productions to the world. This democratizing of broadcasting has resulted in a many-to-many content distribution model.


Over the last 100 years, radio has been left for dead countless times, yet today radio (in all its forms) reaches more people, with more content than ever before. The concepts that shaped radio when it first began are still the same today. The technology and the formats may have changed, evolved and improved over time but the fundamentals remain the same: first, identify and capture an audience through content delivery and second, find ways to monetize this process.

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