Broadcasting Careers Background
For centuries people have sought to improve methods of communicating over long distances. In 1895 an Italian engineer, Guglieimo Marconi, demonstrated how to send communication signals without the use of wires; instantaneous worldwide communication soon became a reality.
In the early 1900s, transmitting and receiving devices were relatively simple, and hundreds of amateurs constructed transmitters and receivers on their own and experimented with radio. Ships were rapidly equipped with radios so they could communicate while at sea with each other and with shore bases. In 1906, human voice was transmitted for the first time by Reginald A. Fessenden. Small radio shows started in 1910; in 1920, two commercial radio stations went on the air: KDKA in Pittsburgh and WWJ in Detroit. By 1921, a dozen local stations were broadcasting. The first network broadcast (more than one station sharing a broadcast) was of the 1922 World Series. By 1926, stations across the country were linked together to form the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Four years later, the first radio broadcast was made around the world.
There has been a steady growth in the number of radio stations in the United States. Now most towns have at least one radio station, and the larger cities have as many as 30 or more, with diverse programming to suit all tastes. In 2006, the United States alone had more than 13,769 radio stations, both commercial and public.
One major trend in radio is the increasing use of programming created by services outside the broadcasting industry. Satellite radio, in which subscribers pay a monthly fee for access to more than 100 radio stations, will be a big threat to smaller, marginal stations.
Modern television is based on electronic theory that grew out of the experiments of Heinrich Geissler in 1857, in which he discharged electricity in a vacuum tube, causing rare gases in it to glow. Other scientists immediately began to experiment with vacuum tubes, and in 1898 Karl Braun made the first cathode-ray tube in which he could control the flow of electrons being released. The development of the iconoscope tube in 1923 turned optical energy into electrical energy. It was not until 1927 that the first workable cathode-ray-tube camera was invented by a 16-year-old boy named Philo T. Farnsworth. Improvements by Vladimir Zworykin made the system practical.
Soon after, the first experimental television program was sent by wire from New York to Washington, DC. But it was not until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt used television to open the New York World’s Fair, that the public realized that the use of television as a standard means for communication was just around the corner. Several stations went on the air shortly after this demonstration and successfully televised professional baseball games, college football games, and the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1940. The onset of World War II limited the further development of television until after the war was over.
Since television’s strength is the immediacy with which it can present information, news programs became the foundation of regular programming. Meet the Press premiered in 1947, followed by nightly newscasts in 1948.
Television began to expand rapidly during the 1950s, following the lifting of the Federal Communications Commission’s freeze on the processing of station applications. In 1953 there were 120 commercial stations. By 2006, there were 2,218 broadcasting television stations. Cable television has experienced rapid growth over the past decade; approximately 65 million Americans subscribed to basic cable in 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research. Approximately 29.6 million Americans subscribed to digital cable in 2006, according to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. Other consumers are turning to satellite television and other technologies for their entertainment needs.
Broadcasting on the Internet has become a popular form of electronic communication. Many radio and television stations have launched Web sites to complement their programming. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Ball State University, 87 percent of radio stations and 99 percent of television stations had Web sites.