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Mass Communications Law - Early History

radio frequencies federal regulatory

Government regulation of radio began in 1910, at a time when radio was regarded primarily as a device to bring about safe maritime operations and as a potential advancement in military technology. Persons seeking to use radio frequencies would register with the COMMERCE DEPARTMENT to have a frequency assigned to them. During WORLD WAR I, entrepreneurs began to recognize the commercial possibilities of radio.

By the mid 1920s, commercial radio stations were operating, and the secretary of commerce set aside frequencies for commercial application. The regulatory powers of the secretary were uncertain because the secretary was authorized under law only to record applications and to grant frequencies. The Federal Radio Commission was created in 1927 to assign applicants designated frequencies under specific engineering rules and to create and enforce standards for the broadcasters' privilege of using the public's airwaves.

The commission later became the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (FCC), which was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C.A. §§ 151 et seq.). The 1934 act set out a regulatory structure that would govern mass communications law for more than 60 years, with the FCC as the governing regulatory body. The law also made clear that the federal government has sole jurisdiction over modern mass communication.

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