Segments in this Video

History of Telegraphy (04:51)


In the mid-1800s, the telegraph, with its dots and dashes, made it possible to move messages in ways that were previously unheard of—as if by magic. Marconi is the first to build a wireless radio communication device.

History of Radio (02:46)

Marconi's invention revolutionizes communication, but its reliance on Morse code limits its use as a medium for mass communication. In the 1920s, the vacuum tube enables voices to be transmitted across long distances. David Sarnoff is the first, true radio visionary.

Radio Broadcasting (03:07)

As a hobby, Americans build radio receivers to pick up whatever they can from the airwaves. Programming is one of the problems facing broadcasters in the 1920s. Frank Conrad's KDKA is the world’s first commercial radio station.

Power of Radio (04:17)

Radio networks form in the late 1920s, bringing up-to-date news and events into the nation's living rooms. Radio brings people out of isolation and gives them the world through the eyes of such personalities as FDR and Edward R. Murrow.

Radio: Commercial Medium (05:12)

Radio fulfills its role as a cultural and educational medium from its first appearance. Commercial radio started in 1922, and by 1930, radio is making a lot of money. To attract large audiences, broadcasters develop entertainment programming instead of cultural and educational programming.

Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" (02:01)

When Orson Welles' broadcast of "War of the World" causes half of American to panic out of fear of real invasion, the power of radio reveals its dangerous side.

Advent of Television (03:33)

Radio's dominance of the airwaves continues through the 1940s until the appearance of television. From the 1950s onward, television is on a rocket ride, taking all the radio stars, performers, and entertainment along with it. Radio becomes a shell of its former self.

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Radio History

Part of the Series : The Story of Film, TV, and Media
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $99.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $149.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



This program tells the complete story of radio, from its roots in Marconi’s wireless telegraphy and the invention of the vacuum tube by Lee De Forest, to its heyday in the 1930s and subsequent upstaging by television in a battle for audience-share. Academic experts discuss the impact of early innovators like Frank Conrad of station KDKA, Pittsburgh, who broadcasted from his garage; the power of personalities to influence mass audiences, citing FDR, Edward R. Murrow, and Orson Welles as examples; radio’s role as a vehicle for delivering mass audiences to advertisers; and the superior ability of the radio to entertain and actively engage listeners in the "theater of the mind." This program provides an intriguing look at America’s once-dominant mass medium. (28 minutes)

Length: 29 minutes

Item#: BVL8566

ISBN: 978-0-7365-6049-8

Copyright date: ©1997

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

"A brief and compelling look … well written and well documented … an engaging visual introduction to the history of radio."—Journalism History

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA and Canada.