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Sports Broadcasters and Announcers


Radio signals, first transmitted by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895, led to early experimentation with broadcasting in the years preceding World War I. After the war began, however, a ban on nonmilitary radio broadcasts delayed radio's acceptance. In 1919, when the ban was lifted, hundreds of amateur stations sprang up. By 1922, 500 were licensed by the government. Codes and domestic broadcast wavelengths were assigned by the government, which created a traffic jam of aerial signals. Eventually, more powerful stations were permitted to broadcast at a higher wavelength, provided these stations only broadcast live music. This move by the government quickly brought entertainment from large, urban areas to the small towns and rural areas that characterized most of the United States at the time.

In the early days of radio broadcasts, anyone who operated the station would read, usually verbatim, news stories from the day's paper. Quickly, station managers realized that the station's "voice" needed as much charisma and flair as possible. Announcers and journalists with good speaking voices were hired. With the arrival of television, many of those who worked in radio broadcasting moved to this new medium.

Corporate-sponsored radio stations weren't long in coming; Westinghouse Corporation and American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) raced to enter the market. Westinghouse engineer Frank Conrad received a license for what is viewed as the first modern radio station, KDKA, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. KDKA broadcast music programs, the 1920 presidential election, and sports events. The next year, Westinghouse began to sell radio sets for as little as $25. By 1924, the radio-listening public numbered 20 million.

Meanwhile, as early as 1929, Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, a Soviet immigrant employed by Westinghouse, was experimenting with visual images to create an all-electronic television system. By 1939, the system was demonstrated at the New York's World Fair with none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking before the camera. World War II and battles over government regulation and AM and FM frequencies interrupted the introduction of television to the American public, but by 1944, the government had determined specific frequencies for both FM radio and television.

In 1946, there were 6,000 television sets in use; by 1951, the number had risen to an astonishing 12 million sets. The stage had been set for a battle between radio and television. In the ensuing years, expert after expert predicted the demise of radio. The popularity of television, with its soap operas, family dramas, and game shows, was believed by nearly everyone to be too strong a competitor for the old-fashioned, sound-only aspect of radio. The experts were proved wrong; radio continues to flourish.

The national radio networks of the early days are gone, but satellites allow local stations to broadcast network shows anywhere with the equipment to receive the satellite link. The development of filmed and video-recorded television, cable, and satellite transmissions, Internet radio and television stations, broadcasting deregulation, and an international market through direct broadcast satellite systems have drastically changed the face and future of both radio and television.

Today's sports broadcasters in radio and television have all these technological tools and more at their fingertips. Want to see an instant replay of the game-winning three-point shot by LeBron James? As the sportscaster describes it, a technician is playing it back for the viewing public. Have to travel to Costa Rica for a business trip, but hate to miss that Yankees game? No problem. A sportscaster is giving the play-by-play to an AM network station that is, in turn, sending it via satellite to a Costa Rican client-station.

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