History Of Radio


With the inception of satellite radio, which to the dismay of traditional radio fans, started offering paid radio services, people have had to start paying subscription fees to be able to listen to their favorite satellite stations. However, one might wonder if this is the first time that radio has ever cost money to listen to or if it has always been free prior to now. Well, to answer that question and to learn more about radio in general, we've created this brief history of radio.

Radio was actually developed along the same timeline that the telegraph and telephone were developed, which means that all three technologies were probably developed together. Using radio waves, Edison became the first person to intentionally transmit and receive radio waves. Although many others claimed to have done it accidentally, it was Edison in 1885 that started advancing the ball forward. In the beginning, radio was called wireless telegraphy, which was tested by people such as Tesla, Marconi, and Popov - all scientists that claimed to have their own theories for radio transmission.

It was right around the turn of the century, approximately 1900, when the first patents for radios were approved and production began. At that point, several companies began offering their services and devices for use by others.

In approximately 1919 and 1920, the US first started granting licenses to radio stations for public transmissions. This continued until 1933, when FM was invented and subsequently patented by Edwin Armstrong. Sometime around 4 years later, the FCC issued its first FM license to an experimental radio station and eventually more and more of them started to pop up.

When radio first became popular, it is interesting to note that record companies and recording artists started complaining about the radio stations giving their music away for free. This is very reminiscent to the current battle between the music industry and torrent search engines/pirated music. Eventually, the association representing the artists filed suit, and they won the right to charge radio stations licensing fees to play their music. Although they still offered free music to their listeners, they had to make up for the costs of licensing fees by offering advertising and other forms of marketing. This is basically how the radio advertising industry began.

Eventually, the radio industry evolved into the model we currently recognize, which is a part music, part talk, part advertising format that seems to be struggling to stay relevant. Although law currently licenses frequencies to particular radio stations on both the AM and FM side, there are threats, such as pirate radio and internet radio, that have forced the radio industry to remain vigilant and monopolize all of the radio waves. As result, there are a lot of "free radio" movements seeking to keep the radio waves owned by the people rather than private industries.

Radio has an interesting history and once it was invented it took off by storm. It appears that radio was always free, however that isn't necessarily true for the radio stations, which paid between 200-5000 in licensing fees depending on the size of the station. Overall, as radio continues to evolve and people find other ways to get their message across, it is highly likely that we will see more and more stations change the way that they do business. In the meantime, we will see how satellite radio affects current radio law and if it maintains its popularity over the long term.