Governments Influence on the Radio

Published: 2021-10-08 18:30:10
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Radio was originally created for the purpose of communicating with ships out to see and emergency broadcasting. Throughout history the United States government has had a major influence on the evolution of radio. The government was responsible for fostering ownership regulations for the stations in an effort to regulate information transmissions and military security. Unfortunately, in doing so the ownership of radio stations became about individual profit rather than national security. The government in the United States has played an integral role in radio’s development.
They began enforcing limits on station ownership to regulate the number of stations a company can own. They also began regulating the content of radio broadcasts when their purpose changed from informative to entertainment. In addition to that the government has had the power to control who and where a person or company can broadcast. From the beginning of radio, the government has influenced much of its components. Since World War I, the United States government has influence the directionality of radio.
In 1919 the American branch of Marconi had requested 24 alternators that would allow them to connect on a worldwide basis from the company General Electric (GE) who was the leading manufacturer at that time. The US navy fought to ensure that type of power did not lie in the hands of a foreign ocuntry6. So, GE created a private sector monopoly. They started Radio Corporation of America (RCA) which later acquired the American branch of Marconi. By the end of 1919, RCA had monopolized the entire wireless industry. In 1922, AT &T began to argue that RCA had too much power.
By the late 1920s the US government was forced to intervene again. They charged RCA with several violations including too much control. RCA was forced to stop buying stations and the competition between them, G&E, and Westinghouse intensified. IN 1927, the government passed the Radio Act of 1927 which stated that individuals did not own stations, they were merely licensees. They could remain licensees as long as they were serving the public’s best interests. AT this point the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was formed.
By 1934, the FRC became the Federal Communications Commission and expanded itself to cover radio, telephone, and telegraph. Since then its legislation changes have been minor like format changes and content control. However, in 1996 the FCC eliminated their ownership restrictions allowing individuals and companies to buy an unlimited number of stations. There have been many advantages to the government’s influence as well as disadvantages. Originally the interference by the government was a matter of national security.
It made communication more secure giving the US a better advantage over other countries. Now the government’s influence encourages profit earning for individuals. Individuals and companies stand to earn profits through the sale of advertising space on radio shows. Unfortunately, while encouraging those with start-up costs, the government influence has also shielded those lacking in money. Radio has potential to be a vital part of the country, acting as a medium that is able to reach millions of people simultaneously. There are a few nonprofit stations, but not many.
So, many people who would otherwise benefit society through talk on the radio will never have the chance. There have been some consequences from the government stepping in when they did. The United States became a leading international power after its success in World War I. AT that point radio was not used as a tool for entertainment, it was used for communication. By the time that changed, consumers stood only to gain from the influence. By forcing competition between major companies, consumers had a bigger variety to choose from.
This also led to a decrease in the cost of radios over the years. Manufacturers suffered from the original legislation, but when it was reversed they were able to produce radios and necessary equipment freely. The added competition encouraged a drop in the prices which was a minor side effect of the government’s legislative impositions. Owners stood to gain from purchasing of stations until the government started to regulate ownership and ruled that there were no owners. This was a loss for many radio station owners, as much of their investment was on the line.
In 1996 when the FCC eliminated the restrictions, owners stood to gain, allowing the cost of purchasing a station to drop and remain about even since. With all of the influence from the government, one must wonder was there another way it could have been done. The answer is no. Had the Navy not stepped in in 1919, the US might not be a leading world power. At times, the government’s rulings were extreme, and could have been a bit easier to manage. For example, rather than eliminating all ownership, the FRC could have instituted new federal regulations.
Regulations could have covered the number of stations one individual or company was allowed to purchase to a number smaller than the original would have brought about enough change on its own. There will always be discrepancies in all of the communications fields. Telephones are being replaced by cell phones. Telegraphs are almost non-existent. Radio is not going to go away. Allowing free range for a person to communicate with a large number of people is always going to be a touchy subject.
There has to be government regulations. The government encouraged GE to monopolize much of the communications r4ealm because at that time it was necessary. When it was appropriate they ceased that and continue to be a major influence on radio ownership. Today the government is responsible for monitoring most of the stations’ content and not who owns it. The government has been the reason that radio station ownership evolved from a monopoly into an oligopoly and it was absolutely necessary each time they intervened.

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