Despite Reginald Fessenden’s historic Christmas Eve broadcast in 1906, it was not until the First World War that the radio began its evolution to a unit primarily used for vocal communication. When the war ended in 1918, these new developments made their way to the home front and, in the 1920s, radio exploded as the first truly mass communication device.
1920 was a significant year for the radio industry. In October, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first commercial broadcast station licensed by the U.S. government, although many experimental stations did exist across the county for years prior. Also in that year, Detroit, Michigan’s 8MK broadcast the first radio news program, covering that year’s Presidential election, the winner was Warren G. Harding. Los Angeles’ KHJ broadcast the first Rose Bowl game on January 1, 1923. By the end of the decade, every state had a radio station.
The 1920s also saw the rise of the first major radio conglomerate: RCA, the Radio Corporation of America. RCA originally began when General Electric bought American Marconi and used RCA for its radio division. Westinghouse and AT&T were also involved in the development of RCA. As the commercial uses and popularity of radio became more apparent (in 1922, it was reported that 1 million radios were in use nationwide), the company began to buy its own radio stations. In 1923, RCA bought WJZ in New Jersey and WRC in Washington, DC. Several years later, RCA bought New York’s WEAF from AT&T and created the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the first major radio network.
The Federal Radio Act of 1927 acknowledged the changing use of the device. The first federal law connected to radio, The Federal Radio Act of 1912, exclusively focused on radio’s original use as a way for ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Fifteen years later, the Federal Radio Act of 1927 created the Federal Radio Commission, used to regulate radio and license stations “as the public convenience, interest, or necessity requires.” The FRC was replaced in 1934 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which still has hold over radio today.