*** radio broadcasting country trends

Theatrical Productions: Radio Country Trends

radio country trends
Figure 1.-- The English favoriate "Just William" was broadcast on BBC radio in the 1940s. Child actor John Clark who was the voice of William on radio, until his voice broke and another child actor had to be found to replace him.

HBC's primary interest is in popular enrttainment. In America this meant commercial radio broadcasting. This of course comes from an American perspective, the only radio that HBC is currently familair with. In many European countries, the Governments controlled or actually owned the broadcast networks. HBC remembers listening to a wide range of interesting radio parograms as a little boy, including 'Amos and Andy', 'Fibber McGee and Mollie', 'Gang Busters', 'Gunsmoke', 'The Jack Benny Show', 'The Lone Ranger', 'The Shadow', and many others. Radio was, however, the exact opposite of the silent films in that it was very difficult to cross international boundaries becaise of the language prioblem. In addition different countries had far different policies concerning radio and programing. In most countries there was far greater Government control than in America. The extremes of course were the totalitarian countries (Fascist Italy, NAZI Germany, and the Soviet Union). The radio indistry and programing in other countries fell between these two extremes. Of course in America and other countries, the advent of television changed the nature of radio programing. Virtually every American in the 1930s had aadio in the home. The same was not true in Europe, even in Germany one of the most prosperous countries. Hitler made a major effort to increase radio ownership, but faced low wages (which he kept low to furher his rearmament program) and the lack of mass production. This difference was to have huge consequences in World War II.

America, Latin

America, North

Canada and the United State are the major countries of North America. We work on Mexico as part of Latin Ameruca for cultural rather than geographic reasons. Commerciual radio in North America has been domibated by commercial broadcasters in thevUnited srates. The first American commercial radio broadcast took place on November 6, 1920, in Pittsburg Peensylvania. The station was KDKA. A Westinghouse employee climbed into a wooden shack on the roof of a company plant and spoke into a converted telephine mouth piece. The first words were, "We shall now broadcast the election returns." He went on to provide details on the election of Warren Harding as president. It did not take long for radio to become a major industry. By 1925 about 10 percent of Americans had radios and by 1933, despite the Depression, 63 percent of Americans had acquired a radio. Though forgotten today, these stations--which often featured popular broadcasters, and catered to working class and rural audiences--played an important yet overlooked role in shaping the future course of American broadcasting. Many of the television staples like news programing, detective shows, adventure shows, sitcoms, quiz shows, variety shows, evangelists, and others were all developed on the radio by commercial broacasters. So was the western, a now forgotten program type. Virtually every American family had a radio which was usually given a place of honor in the living room. Canadian radio developed differently, in part because Canadian broacasters had dificulty competing with American briadcasters and there was no way to place restrictions on American broacsters. As a result, the Government fom an early point has played an important role in the broadcast indudtry.





Radio rapidly expanded into a commercial indusdtry in American and Europe after Wiorld War I. The first Japanese radio broacast occurred only a few years later (1925). It was transmitted from an elevated location, the Atago Hill just north of the Tokugawa Tombs in Shiba Park. Interestingly, the first program included Beethoven, classical Japanese music, and a play by ōyō. Broadcasts from Osaka and Nagoya soon followed. The Japanese Government founded the NHK, modeled on the BBC in Britain (1926). Radio thus became a public rather than a private comnmercial activity. The NHK fused together three regional broadcasting corporations. This was overseen by the Ministry of Communications. NHK began a second radio network (1931). NHK next began a short-wave service for overseas listeners which became known as Radio Japan during the late-1930s and World War II period. Japan began to build radio sets, but even the cheapest set was beyond the purchasing power of most Japanese consumers. Thus Japan entered the War with a relatively small radio industry. This had enormous consequences for the developmentb of high tech weaponry like radar. The Imperial Japanese Army preparing for war, nationalised the public news agencies (November 1941). The Army thus tightly controlled Jaopasnese broadcasting through the Information Liaison Confidential Committee throughout the War. Under the American occupation, the NHK broadcasting monopoly was ended. We do not yet have a page on Japabese radio, but there is some information on the Communicastions page.


Radio in Europe developed upon different lines in the various countries. In almost all countries, the Government played a greater role than in America. Our details as to government reguklation and prgramming is very limited at this time. Hopefully our European readers will be able to provide some insights here. We do have some infomation on radio ownrship. Virtually every American in the 1930s had aadio in the home. The same was not true in Europe, even in Germany one of the most prosperous countries. Radio ownership strongly correlaled with wages. Radio onership was hifgestin Britain followed by France. Germany was a poor third among the major countries. Ownership was relatively low in the Soviet Union. Hitler made a major effort to increase radio ownership, but faced low wages (which he kept low to furher his rearmament program) and the lack of mass production. This difference was to have huge consequences in World War II.



Radio was very important in the development of the Australian nation. No other country had an entire continent to settle with such a small population. Radio broadcasting and later television helped to deal with the communication challenges of the country's vast and sparsely populated land mass. Not only is Australia huge, but the small population is concentrated in the southeastern coastal quadrant. Unlike movies, radio broadcasting developed along a largely country to country basis. While the technology was developed in Europe and America, the broadcasting programs and performers were largely unknown outside of their own countries. Here a major factor was language. William Bragg, Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Adelaide is credited with the first experimental broadcast in Australia (1897), only 2 years after Guglielmo Marconi patented his ground-breaking wireless system. As in Britain, radio became known as wireless for some time. Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company built Australia’s first wireless telegraphy station at Queenscliff, Victoria (1905). The Governor-General and the Prime-Minister transmitted Australia’s first official two-way transmission. It was sent between Melbourne and Devonport in Tasmania. At the time radio was still Morse code, not voice transmissions. Parliament at thus early stage began to regulate radio. The Wireless Telegraphy Act established the federal government as the sole regulator of the exciting new technology. This was followed after nearly two decades with another act when after World War I and major technological advances, radio broadcasting began. The two acts gave the Federal Government authority to regulate the industry. George Fisk of the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited Company made the first Australian broadcast. It was the National anthem transmitted within Sydney (1919). At the time only a handful of Australians had radio equipment to hear it and it could only be heard in Sydney. Radio broadcasting was relatively slow to develop in Australia, compared to America where turned over to the free market, it virtually exploded. Australia first radio station was 2CM which broadcast from the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney (1921). There were still only a handful of listeners and the early stations had relatively weak transmitters. After considerable study, the Government issued a set of radio broadcasting regulations (1923), modified in (1924). The Government developed a two-tiered licensing system. ‘A licenses’ were financed by listener fees as in Britain. ‘B licensees’ were issued to stations financed through advertising. In the next few years, Australian listeners although relatively small in number and limited to the well-to-do population who could afford a radio were widely dissatisfied with the the variety and quality of the broadcasts. We are not sure how that was expressed. The Government ordered a royal commission to assess radio broadcasting. The National Broadcasting Service appeared (NBS) which separated the studios from the and content. The stations were generally low-powered and there were few actual listeners. A Labour Government decided in the depths of the Depression decided to nationalize the industry, creating the Australian Broadcasting Service--ABS (1932). The ABC was initially self-supporting with its funds obtained from radio license fees paid by listeners. This would prove to be inadequate and the Government after World War II established a consolidated revenue system. Licensing fees continued until (1974). ABC today



HBC is just beginning to collect information on radio. one of the most interesting references include: Susan Douglas, Listening In. Other good sources are: Susan Smulyan, Selling Radio and Michele Hilmes Radio Reader.

Stueck, Rudi. E-mail message, January 28. 2013.


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Created: June 18, 2002
Last updated: 7:12 AM 8/1/2011