History of Radio 1959 to 1977

About the history of radio from 1959 to 1977 inlcuding the spread of local music stations, the start of stereo FM, the debut of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and the CB Radio craze.



* Despite the dismal prognostications of the junior Sarnoff, 21 million radios were sold this year.


* With the national radio networks concentrating on news and special events, local stations specialized. Some went to all-music formats, offering specifically top 40, country and western, jazz, classical, or easy listening. Others adopted all-news, talk-personality, or two-way-talk programming.

By the late 1960s, 200 stations were catering to black audiences, but only 10 of the approximately 7,000 stations on the air were owned by blacks.


* The FCC approved stereo FM.


* CBS began broadcasting six minutes of news on the hour, supplemented by short features such as Spectrum, Science Editor, The Cronkite Report, and spots on medicine, the law, show business, Wall Street, and pets and wildlife.

* There were 275 million radios in the U.S. -- 136.1 for every 100 people.


* The FCC upheld the right of radio stations to reject antiwar advertisements.


* A record $12.4 billion was received by radio networks for cigarette ads.


July 2 The National Black Network, the nation's first radio news network owned and operated by blacks, began operation in New York with hourly broadcasts to 40 affiliates.


Jan. 6 In an attempt to revive some of the glory of old-time radio, CBS launched The CBS Radio Mystery Theatre. With E. G. Marshall as host and casts of radio veterans, it airs nightly--reportedly over the objections of some station managers unwilling to upset their all-news or all-music formats.


National Public Radio broadcast the first successful stereo transmission via satellite. The program originated in Valley Forge, Pa., and was bounced off the statellite to the NPR's station in Washington, D.C.


May 14 Lowell Thomas signed off his final news broadcast.


Feb. 5 CBS served up another bit of radio nostalgia with the weekend premiere of The CBS Radio Adventure Theatre, hosted by Tom Bosley of Happy Days. Still, the networks continued to concentrate on hard news and background features, leaving situation comedies, variety shows, and similar fare to TV. ABC boasted four news networks--the Information Network, the Entertainment Network, the Contemporary Network, and the FM Network--each slanted to different specialty stations.

Meanwhile, Citizens Band--CB--Radio became a national craze. Established by the FCC in 1958, Citizens Radio Service got off to a slow start. It took 16 years for the FCC to receive the first million license applications. Within eight months in 1975, it received its second million, and by year's end the third million was in.

More than 12 million CB radios competed for air time, and CB jargon became almost as all-pervasive as "I'se regusted" was 50 years before. Possibly more important, radio was returned to the people. The "radio nut" who had stayed up half the night trying to bring in faraway stations was now the CBer talking to a friendly trucker.

For further reading: A History of Broadcasting in the United States (3 vols.) by Erik Barnouw. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966-1970.

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