Culture and Recreation

Radio and Television

What was radio’s immediate cultural impact?

During the 1930s, radio, pioneered in the late 1800s, was woven into the fabric of everyday American life. People across the country—in cities, suburbs, and on farms— tuned in for news and entertainment, including broadcasts of baseball games and other sporting events as well as comedy and variety shows, dramas, and live music programs. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) used the new medium to speak directly to the American public during the trying times of the Great Depression, broadcasting his “fireside chats” from the White House. Between the 1920s and the 1950s, gathering around the radio in the evenings was as common to Americans as watching television is today. Networks offered advertisers national audiences, and corporate America eagerly seized the opportunity to speak directly to people in their own homes. The advent of television in the 1950s and its growing popularity over the next two decades changed the role of radio in American life. Having lost their audience to TV, radio programmers seized rock music as a way to reach a wide, albeit a very young, audience. Many argue that the rise of the musical genre kept radio alive. In the decades since, radio programming has become increasingly music-oriented; talk and news programming are also popular.



Between the 1920s and 1950s, gathering around the radio in the evenings was as common to Americans as watching television is today.
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