Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Constitution of the Air

With the emergence of radio, it was still kind of unclear which direction broadcasting would go. And as a new media, regulations on how radio would be used sparked conflict. Government help some control over its development as they controlled radio technology during World War I. As that era ended, access to radio technology and broadcast was allowed within the country. But would radio be protected by government like newspapers and magazines before it? Or would it come to conclusion as motion pictures?
With the birth of Americas first broadcast, from Pittsburgh station KDKA, radio was thought to be mainly a political use as it covers the results of the presidential election in 1920. Soon numerous stations filed for licenses from the Department of Commerce, which was put in charge of issuing licenses and monitoring of station frequencies. But without the rights to limit the expanding media, broadcast grew out of control as stations frequencies began to interfere with each other. Eventually Herbert Hoover, secretary of the Department of Commerce, took his chances and began limiting this media and also holding annual National Radio Conferences with the numerous radio stations to find ways to come to terms with one another. Hoover later disappeared from the organization as he became the Republican nomination for president.
Revenue was another unsure subject for radio. It was decided in the beginning that advertisements were not meant to be part of broadcasting. "Rejecting radio as an 'objectionable advertising medium,' Printer's Ink declared that 'the family circle is not a public place, and advertising has no business intruding there unless it is invited'" (Starr 338). But as radio began to air recorded music over the air waves, ASCAP hit them for royalties for playing copyrighted music. Soon they didn't have a choice but to take advertising as a means of revenue.
Soon the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was created and the Radio Act of 1927 granted them the legal regulation power that Hoover had looked for when we was with the Department of Commerce. Radio stations were forced to reapply for licenses as broadcast turned into a "privilage." Eventually American broadcast became a privitely controlled industry, but with some government regulation.


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