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July 9, 2024 10:10 am  #1

Can You Imagine Sharing The Same Frequency With Your Competition?

It happened in the early days of radio. Normally, a story on the nascent years of the medium in Cincinnati wouldn't get noticed here, but I have to say, I found this story fascinating. It's about the early days of radio in that Ohio city and what it actually sounded like if you were well off enough to be able to pony up the money for a set to hear what was on offer. 

And it wasn't great! For one thing, authorities - who had yet to come to grips with this newfangled invention - assigned one frequency per city. And only one. That meant if two or more broadcasters wanted to air programming, they'd have to share time on that dial position. Imagine trying to work that out. 

"On a typical day, WLW broadcast from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., then turned the airwaves over to WSAI from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., then WLW returned to the air until about midnight. The federal government back then assigned frequencies to cities, not to individual stations. All stations in each city had to share that city’s frequency. 

In effect, every radio station was a clear-channel operation because no other stations operated on that frequency. Consequently, as listeners rotated their dials, they could enjoy broadcasts from throughout the continental United States. Cincinnati newspapers published radio schedules from New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Los Angeles and other cities."

A very different kind of DXing, where you could not only capture several stations at the same dial position - but from the same city!

The linked article also offers a glimpse of what those listening were treated to in the early days and a few never before heard moments  - including the very first heartbeat ever broadcast over the airwaves!

What Radio Sounded Like 100 Years Ago