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The Rise and Fall of Radio and the Development of TV, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

In recent times, new technologies are both presenting a variety of options in media entertainment and fostering a growing public need for more. Internet capabilities, and consistent upgrades in phone and notebooks devices, have enabled a media presence unlike anything deemed possible several decades ago.   Today, wherever the average citizen goes, the media usually goes along as well, and by means of strikingly precise video and sophisticated audio. This being the reality, it is worthwhile to examine the relatively recent evolution of the “forebears” of this media universe, and revisit the days when radio and TV first gave society what would become an insatiable appetite for a virtually universal media force. These two industries, both in heated rivalry and in partnership, set the stage for the fierce competitions occurring today between literally thousands of entertainment and information providers.

Radio: Birth of a Giant

It is interesting, when looking back on the first appearances of radio programming, to note that this new technology was developed very much as the Internet would be seven decades later. The prototypes of radio, appearing here and there in the first two decades of the 20th century, were seized upon by fascinated amateurs and enhanced through many personal, non-corporate, efforts. Westinghouse, in fact, erected its first broadcasting tower by enlisting an employee with a history as a radio enthusiast to design it (Volti,  2005, p. 199). Other radio amateurs were, and had been, working on expanding the potentials of this new technology to reach wider audiences, and simultaneously use it as a radically new way of transmitting information to the public, a media goal previously available only through newspapers.

Not surprisingly, it would not be long before commercial potentials would be seen and exploited. The society of the time had already evinced a profound attraction to motion pictures, but radio could do a great deal more. It could be a maintained media presence in the home, and this factor alone allowed for incalculable opportunities in advertising, building program followings, and generating relationships of trust between the radio and the consumer. Far beyond the capabilities of the newspapers, radio made media a personal affair, an achievement substantially aided by live broadcasts and the intimacy inherent in merely listening.  Radio was, essentially, a new world. The advantages were immense, to both broadcaster and listener and, the Depression impact notwithstanding, radio became an American staple from the late 1920s on. For one thing, a person could be illiterate and still get the news. Then, once the device was purchased, it was basically free entertainment, and it gave people the previously unthinkable ability to actually hear famous politicians and celebrities from far away; and, perhaps most influentially, it began the process of national homogenization which later media would cement (Medoff, Kaye, 2010,  p. 29).

The Challenge of TV

That the advent of television, beginning to take hold in a wide-scale manner in the late 1940s, threatened, and eventually conquered, the stature of radio is established. In a very real sense, it had to occur, for the technology of television was simply doing nothing more than taking radio to the next level, where sight joins to sound.   If radio gave voices, news, music, and fun to homes, TV fleshed these same qualities out, and it was inevitable that TV would largely eclipse the power of radio. This was, again, foreseen: “By the spring of 1949, the cry went up that ‘radio is doomed’” (Keith,  2009,  p. 8), and by the early 1950s radio station owners and operators were selling off their holdings or seeking to convert to the new medium.

It is important to note, however,  that, if radio and TV were rivals, the relationship was more complex than that.   In the endless pursuit of promoting any program through either medium that would be successful, an arms race between radio and TV actually served to assist each party, and for a number of years.   If a program was successful, the likelihood was that it would be immediately “borrowed from” and/or formatted to fit into the opposing medium’s structure, particularly after 1960: “A common phenomenon in broadcasting was rapid copying of any program idea that showed it could gain an audience” (Sterling, Kittross, 2002,  p. 432). This kind of “piggybacking” actually served to render radio an experimental arm of TV programming strategies. It is equally essential to see that, strangely, the obvious did not truly happen.  TV did effectively reduce radio to a shadow of its former strength, but radio endures today. Internet and satellite feeds remain highly popular, if a great deal more esoteric than their early counterparts.

Conclusion

While there is no escaping the fact that the rise of TV vastly reduced the standing of radio,  radio survives. It seems there is a need in people to sometimes take in media that demands only their listening. More importantly, the two mediums were the first to engage in the immense media struggles occurring today. In rivalry and as partners, radio and TV set the stage for the market competitions of media  today.

References

Keith, M. C. (2009.)  The Radio Station: Broadcast, Satellite, and Internet. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

Medoff, N., & Kaye, B. K.  (2010.)   Electronic Media: Then, Now, and Later. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

Sterling, C. H., & Kittross, J. M. (2002.)  Stay Tuned: A History of American Broadcasting. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Volti, R.  (2005.)  Society and Technological Change.  New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

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