A Century of Broadcasting: Preservation and Renewal

20 Oct 2020 to 24 Oct 2020
Washington, D.C., USA

Celebrating One Hundred Years of Broadcasting

In the United States, the radio industry began primarily as a form of wireless telegraphy used for point-to-point communication. After World War I, government licensing began for stations that were changing the medium by airing point-to-mass broadcast transmissions of music and voice. From the celebrated Election Day broadcasts of Westinghouse station KDKA on November 2, 1920 to similar services offered by hundreds of other stations from coast to coast, the industry paradigm shifted. The broadcasting model endures to the present, characterizing media systems from large commercial networks to public broadcasting, satellite radio and online streaming services, and RSS-based podcasting.

This conference marks the centenary of that paradigm shift and investigates radio’s century of constant renewal and rebirth over the course of the intervening century, during which various radio and radio-like practices have been invented and reinvented, forgotten and remembered, in settings across the United States. We want to highlight a century dotted with “new” sound practices in this restless medium, from the first non-English programs to the first broadcasts aimed at communities of color, from the first international shortwave transmissions to the first true crime podcasts, the first educational shows to the first radio-based art. Our conference underscores the role of preservation in documenting (and even driving) the process of renewing radio from generation to generation and from community to community.