Radio's Political Past

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The history of radio is inextricably suffused with politics. Though licensed experimental stations were transmitting as early as 1916, the first scheduled and advertised radio program in America-broadcast on November 2, 1920, from Pittsburgh's KDKA-was an 18-hour marathon on the election returns of the Harding-Cox presidential race. Over the following months, KDKA broadcast numerous other civic-oriented programs. In November 1921, radio beamed the voice of the .U.S. president overseas for the first time when RCA's powerful Port Jefferson, Long Island, station went on the air with an international address by President Harding that was heard by radio listeners in Europe, Japan, Australia and Central and South America. While Harding was the fi rst president to use radio as a means of political communication, Calvin Coolidge - who succeeded Harding on his death in August 1923 - was more adept at it, a fact Coolidge recognized. "I am very fortunate that I came in with the radio," Coolidge commented. "I can't make an engaging, rousing or oratorical speech...but I have a good radio voice, and now I can get my message across to [the public] without acquainting them with my lack of oratorical ability."

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Media Studies Journal, Radio: the Forgotten Medium
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NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Michael X. Delli Carpini was affiliated with Columbia University. Currently January 2008, he is a faculty member of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
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