The second national radio network in the U.S. took to the air on 18 September 1927. Slightly more than two years later, the U.S. would experience the stock market crash we know as Black Tuesday.
That second radio network in the United States was the Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company (parent of the Columbia record label). It began with 16 network radio stations* located as far west as St. Louis.
According to the New York Times, William S. Paley bought the “foundering network” about a year later. He would rename the company the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
CBS (now Paramount Global) no longer operates any radio stations.
In 2017, CBS Radio merged with Entercom. That created a nationwide network of 244 radio stations in 23 of the top 25 U.S. markets. The merged entity, now called Audacy, owns the bulk of the nation’s all-news radio stations: 10 of 25 (2020 data). There are 13 companies; the top four own 16 stations (64%).
The FCC prevents any one company from owning stations that reach more than 39% of the nation’s households. And yet iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel Communications, San Antonio, Texas) claims to reach 9-in-10 Americans each month. It operates more than 860 live broadcast stations in 160 markets.
- Audacy (formerly Entercom) operates 235 radio stations.
- Bloomberg Radio operates five radio stations.
- Cox Media Group operates 53 radio stations.
- Cumulus Media operates 185 radio stations.
- Martz Communications Group operates six radio stations.
- UrbanOne operates 56 radio stations.
The current FCC rules on radio station ownership vary depending on market size:
- In a radio market with 45 or more stations, an entity may own up to eight radio stations (18%), no more than five of which may be in the same service (AM or FM).
- In a radio market with between 30 and 44 radio stations, an entity may own up to seven radio stations (16-23%), no more than four of which may be in the same service.
- In a radio market hosting between 15 and 29 radio stations, an entity may own up to six radio stations (21-40%), no more than four of which may be in the same service.
- In a radio market with 14 or fewer radio stations, an entity may own up to five radio stations (36%-50%), no more than three of which may be in the same service, as long as the entity does not own more than 50 percent of all radio stations in that market.
The ownership/branding history of CBS is quite circular:
- 1971: the company spun off a division of the business, Viacom
- 1974: the company’s legal name became CBS, Inc.
- 1995: Westinghouse Electric Corp. acquired the company
- 1997: Westinghouse acquired Infinity Broadcasting
- 1997: Westinghouse renamed as CBS Corporation
- 1999: Infinity became a division of the original Viacom
- 1999: Viacom and CBS formed the “largest media marriage in U.S. history”
- 2005: Viacom spun CBS and Infinity Broadcasting into a division renamed CBS Radio
- 2006: Viacom and CBS split
- 2017: Entercom announced it would combine with CBS Radio in a tax-free merger
- 2019: Viacom and CBS formed ViacomCBS
- 2022: ViacomCBS changed its name to Paramount Global
The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was the first broadcasting network in the United States. Its first broadcast took place on 15 November 1926 from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
*Originating station: WOR, Newark
- KMOX, St. Louis
- KOIL, Council Bluffs
- WADC, Akron
- WAIU, Columbia
- WCAO, Baltimore
- WCAU, Philadelphia
- WEAN, Providence
- WFBL, Syracuse
- WGHP, Detroit
- WJAS, Pittsburgh
- WKRC, Cincinnati
- WMAK, Buffalo-Lockport
- WMAQ, Chicago
- WNAC, Boston
- WOWO, Fort Wayne
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