Great story on how U.S. radio stations used to be required to air all sides of issues — and preserving that legacy.
How many historical radio broadcasts have been lost to history?
Josh Shepperd, an assistant professor of media studies at Catholic University in Washington D.C., estimates that up to 90 percent of all radio broadcasts that aired between the mid-1920s and the mid-1980s were not saved.
Millions of hours of tape were trashed, not stored, not preserved, or lost as radio stations consolidated, changed hands, reorganized their spaces or shifted buildings.
Shepperd serves as the National Research Director for the Radio Preservation Task Force for the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Over the past two years, Shepperd and his colleagues have identified over 350,000 recordings that still exist from over 350 archives. They expect that number to grow substantially as more archives join the project.
Even if the number of existing radio broadcasts reaches well over a million, which Shepperd expects, time is of the essence to preserve existing radio recordings. Many broadcasts that exist in archives are not safe — they may be stored on a format that’s quickly deteriorating or require technology (like reel-to-reel machines) that are themselves quickly becoming obsolete. . . .
Dan, you and I both remember the days where news was a requirement to keep your license. So was public affairs.
Even Top40 stations regularly ran newscasts, though in the 60’s and 70’s they were tailored toward the target audience. In Seattle, I remember “KJR Constant Information”, and later “KJR Instant Information” KING-AM and KOL also had news departments. I’m sure Portland offered the same on KGW and KISN.
It is good to see that there are some trying to salvage some of this era.