{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/law.php' }

Anniversary of the Radio Act of 1927, The Beginning of Broadcast Regulation

As new technologies emerge, the federal government works to ratchet up its regulations. If the technology is sufficiently pervasive, the government creates regulatory arms for it. Radio is one of the earlier examples of this cycle of technological innovation and its regulation. Before 1927, the Commerce Department regulated radio, but the department’s control over the medium was mostly toothless. The department lacked the power to deny broadcasting licenses to anyone. As a result, Congress passed the Radio Act of 1927 (P.L 632, 69th Congress) to better control the new industry; there were concerns about First Amendment rights and the ways the new medium would be used.

On Feb. 23, 1927, the act was signed into law, making radio regulation the responsibility of the independent Federal Radio Commission (FRC). The act gave the FRC the power to deny broadcasting licenses, and to assign frequencies and power levels for each licensee. In 1934, the FRC was replaced by the Federal Communications Commission, which was given greater powers and subject to Congressional oversight. The FRC and the FCC have provided significant guidance to the industry for the last 90 years. The 1927 act was the start of it all. If you’re interested in reading more about it, you can find more information online and here at the Law Library, on the shelf.

The FCC’s rules and regulations are included in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

KF2810.Z9 C34  Caldwell, Louis Goldsborough, 1891- . A suggested method of compliance with the Davis amendment to the radio law; a revision and enlargement of a paper read at a conference held by the Federal radio commission on April 23, 1928.

KF2805.D38 1929 Radio law / by W. Jefferson Davis.

KF26.I58 1929f United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Interstate Commerce.  Continuing Federal radio commission to March 16, 1930: hearings before the committee on Interstate Commerce, United States Senate, Seventieth Congress, second session, on S. 4937, a bill continuing the powers and authority of the federal radio commission under the radio act of 1927, and for other purposes. February 4-8, 1929.

KF31.I55 1931  United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Interstate Commerce. Amendment of Radio act of 1927.

KF27.I58 1932a United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Interstate Commerce.  To amend the Radio Act of 1927: hearings before the Committee on Interstate Commerce, United States Senate, Seventy-second Congress, first session, on H. R. 7716, a bill to amend the Radio act of 1927.

KF31.I55 1932 United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Interstate Commerce. Amendment of Radio act of 1927.

KF31.I55 1933 United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Interstate Commerce. Amendment of Radio act of 1927.

O.H. Caldwell (Photograph shows Orestes Hampton Caldwell (1888-1967) who was appointed to the Federal Radio Commission in 1927.) [Bain News Service; //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.22829]

O.H. Caldwell (Photograph shows Orestes Hampton Caldwell (1888-1967) who was appointed to the Federal Radio Commission in 1927.) [Bain News Service; //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.22829]

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.