A Century of Radio
by Alex Cosper


The 2019-2026 era marks the 100th anniversary of commercial radio as a mass medium. Historians may disagree which year should be treated as the birth of this era, but the consensus tends to be KDKA/Pittsburgh's broadcast of 1920 Presidential Election coverage as an important early time marker.

In 1922 New York City station WEAF signed on the air and began setting the pace for the emerging radio industry. That year the United States Commerce Department began to issue a surge of many new licenses to radio operators across the country. The rise of national radio networks (NBC in 1926 then CBS in 1927) had a dramatic influence on the direction of the commercial radio industry.

This extensive research is a collection of articles about the radio industry's development from the roaring twenties through the 21st century. It includes a theme song of the same name. A common thread running through these stories is that radio was originally planned by the government as a public service funded by sponsors that had informative content to share. The advertiser's job was to help consumers make informed decisions. But the original concept for radio that "the public owns the airwaves" seemed to become ancient history by the late 20th century.

Over time hyperbolic commercialism became the driving force of radio, which was what early regulators warned about. Except, they warned highly commercial content would be a tune-out for listeners. It turned out, though, that emotionally-charged radio advertising helped big brands and small businesses attract attention in the market.

After TV became the most popular form of media in the 1950s, radio was forced to reinvent itself. Radio stations went from broad variety and block programming to niche formats based on demographics. The following are deeper stories that cover radio's evolution from just a few stations per market to thousands of AM and FM stations around the planet. The proliferation of internet podcasting this century has led many radio professionals to include podcasting as part of today's radio industry.

Table of Contents

1. Birth of Commercial Broadcasting
2. Landscape of Early Radio Economics
3. How Early Radio Became Popular
4. The First National Radio Networks
5. History of Radio Commercials
6. Presidents on the Radio
7. How Bing Crosby Influenced Radio and TV Recording
8. Pop and Freeform Rock Rewind
9. Rise of Commercial FM and Format Splintering
10. Alternative Radio and the Last Indie Stations
11. Telecom Act and the Corporate Aftermath
12. A Century of Radio Timeline

Past Playlist Research Articles by Alex Cosper

Social Music Talk Interviews: Includes 91X/San Diego radio legends Michael Halloran, Max Tolkoff, Bryan Schock, Nicole Sandler, Dwight Arnold, Rob Tonkin and more

Interview with All Access Founder Joel Denver
Interview with R&R Founder Bob Wilson
American Radio History
The History of Freeform
History of Famous Radio DJs
Interview with Radio Legend Dave Sholin
Top College Radio Stations in America
Rolling Stone Introduces Charts
History of the Music Industry
KDKA Kicks Off Broadcasting
How Early Radio Became Popular
Landscape of Early Radio Economics
Nationalization of Radio Networks
A Brief History of WHFS
Timeline of National Radio Networks and Music Shows
Rise of Alternative Radio
KWODumentary: 90s Alternative Radio
Freeform/Rock Radio: The Legend of KZAP/Sacramento 1968-1992
New York City Radio History
Los Angeles Radio History
Chicago Radio History
San Francisco Radio History
Interview with Radio Consultant Lee Arnold
Interview with Radio Consultant Dennis Constantine
Interview with KRXQ/Sacramento Long Stay Rocker Pat Martin
Interview with Radio Consultant John Sebastian
Interview with Michael Halloran About 91X/San Diego Programming
Interview with Radio Host/A&R Executive Bruce Ravid
Interview with San Jose Radio Programmer Dana Jang
Interview with Radio/Music Pro Roland West
Interview with Tony Cox About Radio History
Interview with Chris Collins and Kill R Bee of the KSFM Morning Zoo
Interview with LA Radio Personality Mimi Chen
Interview with Bonnie Stacy-Canelakes on Radio Promotions
Interview with San Jose Radio Personality Jona Denz Hamilton
Interview with KZAP Cat Logo Designer Bill Styler
Interview with Drake-Chenault Music Director Kristi Rohlfing
KROY Stories: Interviews with Johnny Hyde, History of Top 40 Radio
Interview Series with Dann Shively, KCRA/Sacramento Radio Pilot
Interview with Alternative Radio Programmer Bruce McDonald
KFBK/Sacramento Celebrates its 100th Anniversary
Evidence Playlists Have Replaced Albums
History of Offensive Lyrics
Anniversary of the Telecom Act
Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone?
Interview with Beatles Album Cover Designer Kosh
The Meaning of Misleading Music Research
Seeds of Playlist Industry Have Been Planted
How Playlists Could Create a New Industry
How Apps Became the New Pop Culture
Why Football Is More Popular Than Music In America
How Electronic Effects Became Overdone in Pop Music
40 Million Bands Competing for 40 Radio Slots
Principles of a Beatles-Based Business Model
Why College Radio Still Matters
Preparing For the Internet Broadcast Invasion
Be Your Own DJ



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