The first "wireless rules" in the United States were published around 1910 but they were obsolete before the printer washed his hands.  In the 19-teens the only "regulatory authority" was the U.S. Navy!  The Department of Commerce had opened for business in 1912 but its charter and its effectiveness were less than worthless.  In 1920, Herbert Hoover asked for and received the post of Secretary of Commerce as a spoil of victory for his support of newly-elected President Warren G. Harding. 

Hoover believed Commerce to be "the hub of the nation's growth and stability.  He lost no time in setting up a department within the Department to oversee "wireless".  He called several "Radio Conferences" in the mid-1920's to secure industry input and to try to craft regulation with some teeth.

The reports of these conferences make interesting reading.  The industry was in control.  Even the Federal Radio Commission, established in 1927, wasn't playing with all the high cards. In those pre-computer days, frequency allocations were a matter of "try" and "try again" to make radio signals fit within the allocated spectrum.  Most early stations were shifted in dial position several times, as the FRC and later the FCC labored to make order out of chaos.  Unfortunately, the industry retained its hold on many of the laws governing its business, with the result that, while literally thousands of stations came on the air, the early stations (the 'big guns') got the favorable with serious lobbying input on assignments.  Radio listeners were left to chase their favorite stations around the dial.

This page presents most of the major stories on early radio regulation.  Our section: DEVELOPMENT OF THE AM BAND will allow you to track the dial changes over the first three decades of broadcasting.  Have fun!


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