Broadcast Regulation

broadcasting

broadcasting, transmission, usually using radio frequencies, of sound or images to a large number of radio or television receivers. In the United States the first regularly scheduled radio broadcasts began in 1920 at 8XK (later KDKA) in Pittsburgh. The sale of advertising was started in 1922, establishing commercial broadcasting as an industry. Radio became increasingly attractive as an advertising medium with the coming of network operation. A coast-to-coast hookup was tentatively effected early in 1924, and expansion of both audience and transmission facilities continued rapidly. By 1927 there were two major networks, and the number of stations had so increased that interference became a serious problem. Legislation (see Federal Communications Commission) designed to meet this problem was enacted, and the government has since maintained some control over the technical and business activities of the industry. In 2016, more than 4,600 radio stations were operating in the original AM (amplitude modulation) broadcast band. Commercial broadcasting on the FM (frequency modulation) band began in 1941. The number of FM stations passed the number of AM stations in 1983; in 2016 there were more than 6,700 commercial FM stations on the air, and some 4,100 noncommercial stations. By the end of the 20th cent. mobile digital radio had entered the market with a satellite-based subscription service in Europe (1998) and in the United States (2000). Two years later, a land-based digital radio subscription service was inaugurated in the United States.

Experiments in broadcasting television began in the 1920s but were interrupted by World War II. The development of all-electronic television and the adoption (1953) of common television broadcasting standards for North America led to the growth of television broadcasting and commercial television networks in the 1950s. Noncommercial educational television developed more slowly, but the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and the establishment in 1968 of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a not-for-profit, nongovernmental agency, spurred its growth and that of noncommercial radio as well. The FCC's adoption of compatible color television standards in 1953 laid the groundwork for widespread color broadcasting from the mid-1960s. Standards for high-definition digital broadcasting, adoption in 1996, led to digital-only broadcasting in the United States in 2009. In 2016 there were nearly 1,400 commercial television stations on the air, and nearly 400 noncommercial stations.

New and competing technologies have had a tremendous impact on broadcasting and the ways in which people use it. The availability of small, high-quality portable and automotive receivers transformed radio listening, and listeners are now, at certain times of day, more likely to be in automobile that at home. Cable television dates to the 1950s but did not begin to supplant television broadcasting until the 1970s and 80s. It now reaches more than 80% of all U.S. homes, but in the 2010s its growth stagnated and even declined. Cable's development gave consumers a wider choice of programs from which to choose, and the new cable channels, most of them more specialized in the programming they offer, coupled with the wide availability of videocassettes and then DVDs, reduced the influence of the broadcast networks. Television and radio signals are also now transmitted from satellites direct to household satellite dishes, and fiber-optic networks operated by telecommunications companies offer television services that compete with cable television. Television and radio programs as well as motion pictures, music, talks, and the like also are now transmitted or downloaded over the Internet and cellular telephone networks, and viewed or heard using a computer, smart phone, or another electronics device with the appropriate software.

See radio; television.

See E. Barnouw, A History of Broadcasting in the United States (3 vol., 1966–70); J. R. Bittner, Broadcasting and Telecommunication: An Introduction (1985); S. J. Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899–1922 (1997); J. R. Walker and D. A. Ferguson, The Broadcast Television Industry (1998).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Broadcast Regulation: Selected full-text books and articles

Deciding Communication Law: Key Cases in Context By Susan Dente Ross Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Media Regulation, Public Interest and the Law By Mike Feintuck; Mike Varney Edinburgh University Press, 2006 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: focus on Great Britain
The New Media Theory Reader By Robert Hassan; Julian Thomas Open University Press, 2006
Librarian's tip: Part 2 "Governing New Media"
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