We’ve put together a couple of events that took place on live radio and which can certainly be classed as key moments in radio history.
1906. Christmas Radio
Although the idea of radio began in the middle of the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1906 that a voice was heard on the airwaves for the first time, that of Canadian Reginald Fessenden. The first radio show in the world was broadcast on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1906. Lined up was a short speech, a recording of Händel’s Largo (the first piece played on the radio), a Christmas song and a biblical reading. Fessenden broadcast his show from Brant Rock in Massachusetts and it was picked up more than 800 kilometers away.
A recording of the violin piece played by Reginald himself in person on Christmas evening 1906.
1938. Panic and Extraterrestrials
This little anecdote is so incredible, it almost deserves an article of its own. On the evening of Halloween, Orson Welles, a famous director decides to broadcast a radio piece inspired by the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells.
The play begins with a speaker announcing a fall of meteorites in Canada and New Jersey. It also evokes an invasion of extraterrestrials in the United States. However, intended as entertainment, it quickly turns into a huge hoax. Many listeners end up believing that a real alien attack was taking place. Legend has it that a wind of panic tore across the United States that Halloween night.
In reality, if some people did feel a certain amount of anxiety that night, there was no riot as reported by the press the next day. there was no riot as reported by the press the following day.
At the time, the press were intimiated by the medium of radio and did not hesitate to dramatize the effects of Orson Welles’ joke when in reality, very few people listened to what remains to be one of the most beautiful jokes carried out on the radio.
1940. The Appeal of 18 June
One of the first events that comes to mind when we talk about great radio moments is, of course, Charles de Gaulle’s Appeal of 18 June. Having arrived the day before in London, De Gaulle meets Winston Churchill who puts at his disposal the BBC, so that the General could give a speech after the announcement of the armistice request by France. On June 18, Charles De Gaulle gives a speech instructing the French to continue the fight. However, believe it or not, this speech which would eventually become emblematic was actually heard by very few. It was not until the following day, when his speech was reprinted in the press, that De Gaulle really became the symbol of the French Resistance.
Unfortunately, there is no recording of this speech. The preserved recording was actually broadcast 4 days later, that is to say, on June 22 (non-French speakers, you might want to check out this article here).
De Gaulle’s Appeal of 22 June 1940
The 60’s. Radio and Pirate Boats
Little is known about the first pirate radio station but it started broadcasting from the sea as of 1925. However, it was in the 60s that the pirate radio stations experienced a dazzling rise. In Europe, these radio stations want to oppose the state monopoly on broadcasting. To do so, they broadcast from international waters to escape, in principle, the regulations of their country. They were mainly Dutch, English, Danish and Swedish radio stations. The most famous of them, Radio Caroline, which broadcast in 1964 from an old Danish ferry. The first song on their airwaves was Not Fade Away by the Rolling Stones
In France, the phenomenon took on a different dimension and pirate radio stations came about later in the 1970s, notably because of the fact that the equipment beame more affordable. In France, the first pirate radio station to be broadcast was Radio Campus, which broadcast from Lille in 1969.
1995. The First Online Radio Station
Almost 90 years after the first radio transmission, the first radio station to be broadcast on the Internet finally came into being, Radio HK. At the time, the first online radio station in history used multicast technology, which broadcasts from a single transmitter to a receiver group. No MP3s but a CD that would loop and broadcast via audio-conferencing software.
When TV started showing an interest in the first internet radio station, that was 22 years ago. 20 years later, online radio stations have become democratized and we can freely broadcast and listen to what we want. More than a hundred years old, radio is an ever-evolving medium that never ceases to define itself. Perhaps you’ll be the next to participate in its history.
And in your opinion, what radio moments deserve their title of historical event?
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