Apr 19, 2012

Cultural History of Broadcast Radio

There was a time when radio broadcasters were not regulated—anyone could receive a broadcast license—and between 1920 and 1925, the airwaves were a mess. With only two broadcasting frequencies and endless individuals with a broadcast license, this chaotic situation led many Americans to distrust the radio system.

Congress finally ratified the situation by signing the Radio Act of 1927 and creating the Federal Radio Commission; a five-person committee that could ultimately deny licenses and assign different frequencies for various licenses. The commission also ensured that no vulgar language was broadcasted. Since the FRC could regulate the airwaves, radio broadcast became less chaotic.

In 1928, the commission told 164 stations that they need to justify why they should continue to broadcast or they would be taken off air. 81 stations remained, while the rest retired from the airwaves. The commission chose certain stations to eliminate, communicating to the nation the power it welded to decide which information could be broadcasted.

Even though the radio became more regulated in the 1920s, its golden age was the 30s. Home radios grew from 12 million to 22 million even during the depression, from 1930 through 1935. In 1934, the Communications Act created the Federal Communications Commission. The commission’s duties involved regulating interstate and foreign radio and promoting safety of life through the Emergency Broadcast System. Because radio’s regulations became more recognized, more shows aired. From The Ed Sullivan Show to Bob Hope, radio achieved more entertainment value, as more shows aired.

By 1955, radio was no longer the number-one medium for entertainment and news. With its visual component, television became a leader in advertisement and entertainment.

Though television remains the dominant medium for entertainment today, there is something romantic about sitting around a radio listening to voices and music. Old time radio’s romanticism is what WYNOT Radio Theatre invoke during performances. This show transports us back to the 30s and 40s, where the radio is the crucial object in each American’s home for be transported to other worlds.

WYNOT Radio Theatre

A Case of Mail-Order Murder
April 19-28 | $15 | Buy Tickets

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