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Mon Jan 13, 2020, 01:43 PM

A good overview of the birth of radio broadcasting in the US?

I'm writing a mini-series set in 1922 to 1928 which focuses mostly on two untold (or under-told) and overlapping stories -- the role of women behind the camera in early Hollywood and how the rapid adoption of radio threatened early Hollywood so much that they finally spent the money to transition all of the theaters and production to sync sound.

Half of all films written before 1925 were written by women. The highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood from 1915 to 1935 was a woman. She was the go-to writer when there was a big budget, Frances Marion. Lois Weber, Anita Loos, Mary Pickford.... many great characters that will speak to modern audiences.

I'm very good on the film side of the research but the birth of broadcast radio has been harder to get at. I need to learn more about the period of rapid growth for radio, especially HOW the business grew and any conflicts and battles it had directly with movie theaters. TIA for any good sources on this period of American radio.

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Reply A good overview of the birth of radio broadcasting in the US? (Original post)
Apollo Zeus Jan 2020 OP
rurallib Jan 2020 #1
Apollo Zeus Jan 2020 #2
rurallib Jan 2020 #3
Aristus Jan 2020 #4
Apollo Zeus Jan 2020 #5

Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Mon Jan 13, 2020, 10:29 PM

1. I will give you a kick

early radio has always been a back-burner interest of mine, but I know little of what you seek.

I grew up in Iowa City(U of Iowa) which had one of the earliest radio stations of all - it is now NPR station WSUI.

Little bit I have read is that radio stations grew like wildfire with practically every city block having some form of a radio station. Then FDR & the FCC stepped in and made radio safe for the business man

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Response to rurallib (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 13, 2020, 11:54 PM

2. Thanks

What I have so far is pretty basic: Coming out of WW1 there is better technology and Westinghouse backs the first regular broadcast, KDKA Pittsburg, in order to sell more radios in 1920. Westinghouse helps form RCA (Radio Corp of America) in 1919 then NBC in 1926.

By 1922 there are 500+ stations and Americans spend $60 million (about $880 mil in 2020) buying radio receivers at $8 to $300 each. Also in 1922 the first receivers with loudspeakers are sold -- prior to that radio was for headphones. The BBC launches in the UK.

In 1927 you have federal regulation of radio, the premiere of "The Jazz Singer" and the deaths of Sam Warner and Marcus Loew.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Reply #2)

Tue Jan 14, 2020, 09:06 AM

3. About ten years ago (more probably) I was working to get

some folks interested in starting up a left leaning radio station under the FCC's new guidelines for local radio. I dropped out, but some of the folks that I worked with along the way did get a station going .

Along the way I accidentally picked up some interesting bits and pieces about radios history - little of which will help you, but is interesting.

For instance the guy who ran WSUI in the early '20s would take the transmitter home with him at night.

One of the reasons that the FCC opened up licenses for "local" radio (under 100 watt on open space on FM) was that there were so many pirate radio stations across the country. We had one around here. It was run on no regular hours from a location that would move about practically weekly.

The station played some wild music and had some very funny bits between records.

The FCC wanted to stomp pirates out and went after them all hard.
From what I read at one time in the '20s and '30s there were radio 'stations' on nearly every block.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Tue Jan 14, 2020, 12:54 PM

4. Aaron Sorkin wrote an interesting overview of the early days of radio

in his play about television "The Farnsworth Invention".

He focuses half the play on David Sarnoff, who founded RCA. It's worth a look.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #4)

Tue Jan 14, 2020, 01:56 PM

5. Thanks!

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