History of radio
The early history of radio is the history of technology that produced radio instruments that use radio waves. Within the timeline of radio, many people contributed theory and inventions in what became radio. Radio development began as "wireless telegraphy". Later radio history increasingly involves matters of programming and content.
- 1 Invention
- 2 Start of the 20th century
- 3 Audio broadcasting (1919 to 1950s)
- 4 Later 20th century developments
- 5 Legal issues with radio
- 6 Exotic technologies
- 7 See also
- 8 Footnotes
- 9 References
- 10 Media and documentaries
- 11 External links
The idea of wireless communication predates the discovery of "radio" with experiments in "wireless telegraphy" via inductive and capacitive induction and transmission through the ground, water, and even train tracks from the 1830s on. In 1873 James Clerk Maxwell showed mathematically that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space. It is likely that the first intentional transmission of a signal by means of electromagnetic waves was performed in an experiment by David Edward Hughes around 1880, although this was considered to be induction at the time. In 1888 Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was able to conclusively prove transmitted airborne electromagnetic waves in an experiment confirming Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism.
After the discovery of these "Hertzian waves" (it would take almost 20 years for the term "radio" to be universally adopted for this type of electromagnetic radiation) many scientists and inventors experimented with wireless transmission, some trying to develop a system of communication, some not, some intentionally using these new Hertzian waves, some not. Maxwell's theory showing that light and Hertzian electromagnetic waves were the same phenomenon at different wavelengths led "Maxwellian" scientist such as John Perry, Frederick Thomas Trouton and Alexander Trotter to assume they would be analogous to optical signaling and the Serbian American engineer Nikola Tesla to consider them relatively useless for communication since "light" could not transmit further than line of sight. In 1892 the physicist William Crookes wrote on the possibilities of wireless telegraphy based on Hertzian waves and in 1893 Tesla proposed a system for transmitting intelligence and wireless power using the earth as the meduim. Others, such as Amos Dolbear, Sir Oliver Lodge, Reginald Fessenden, and Alexander Popov were involved in the development of components and theory involved with the transmission and reception of airborn electromagnetic waves for their own theoretical work or as a potential means of communication.
Over several years starting in 1894 the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi built the first complete, commercially successful wireless telegraphy system based on airborne Hertzian waves (radio transmission). Marconi demonstrated application of radio in military and marine communications and started a company for the development and propagation of radio communication services and equipment.
Start of the 20th century
Around the start of the 20th century, the Slaby-Arco wireless system was developed by Adolf Slaby and Georg von Arco. In 1900, Reginald Fessenden made a weak transmission of voice over the airwaves. In 1901, Marconi conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. In 1904, The U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision, awarding Marconi a patent for the invention of radio, possibly influenced by Marconi's financial backers in the States, who included Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie. This also allowed the U.S. government (among others) to avoid having to pay the royalties that were being claimed by Tesla for use of his patents. For more information see Marconi's radio work. In 1907, Marconi established the first commercial transatlantic radio communications service, between Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Newfoundland.
Julio Cervera Baviera
Julio Cervera Baviera developed radio in Spain around 1902. Cervera Baviera obtained patents in England, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. In May–June 1899, Cervera had, with the blessing of the Spanish Army, visited Marconi's radiotelegraphic installations on the English Channel, and worked to develop his own system. He began collaborating with Marconi on resolving the problem of a wireless communication system, obtaining some patents by the end of 1899. Cervera, who had worked with Marconi and his assistant George Kemp in 1899, resolved the difficulties of wireless telegraph and obtained his first patents prior to the end of that year. On March 22, 1902, Cervera founded the Spanish Wireless Telegraph and Telephone Corporation and brought to his corporation the patents he had obtained in Spain, Belgium, Germany and England. He established the second and third regular radiotelegraph service in the history of the world in 1901 and 1902 by maintaining regular transmissions between Tarifa and Ceuta for three consecutive months, and between Javea (Cabo de la Nao) and Ibiza (Cabo Pelado). This is after Marconi established the radiotelegraphic service between the Isle of Wight and Bournemouth in 1898. In 1906, Domenico Mazzotto wrote: "In Spain the Minister of War has applied the system perfected by the commander of military engineering, Julio Cervera Baviera (English patent No. 20084 (1899))." Cervera thus achieved some success in this field, but his radiotelegraphic activities ceased suddenly, the reasons for which are unclear to this day.
Using various patents, the British Marconi company was established in 1897 and began communication between coast radio stations and ships at sea. This company, along with its subsidiaries Canadian Marconi and American Marconi, had a stranglehold on ship to shore communication. It operated much the way American Telephone and Telegraph operated until 1983, owning all of its equipment and refusing to communicate with non-Marconi equipped ships. In June 1912, after the RMS Titanic disaster, due to increased production Marconi opened the world's first purpose-built radio factory at New Street Works in Chelmsford, and in 1932 the Marconi Research Laboratory. Many inventions improved the quality of radio, and amateurs experimented with uses of radio, thus planting the first seeds of broadcasting.
The company Telefunken was founded on May 27, 1903, as "Telefunken society for wireless telefon" of Siemens & Halske (S & H) and the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (General Electricity Company) as joint undertakings for radio engineering in Berlin. It continued as a joint venture of AEG and Siemens AG, until Siemens left in 1941. In 1911, Kaiser Wilhelm II sent Telefunken engineers to West Sayville, New York to erect three 600-foot (180-m) radio towers there. Nikola Tesla assisted in the construction. A similar station was erected in Nauen, creating the only wireless communication between North America and Europe.
The invention of amplitude-modulated (AM) radio, so that more than one station can send signals (as opposed to spark-gap radio, where one transmitter covers the entire bandwidth of the spectrum) is attributed to Reginald Fessenden and Lee de Forest. On Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden used an Alexanderson alternator and rotary spark-gap transmitter to make the first radio audio broadcast, from Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the violin and reading a passage from the Bible.
Charles David Herrold
In April 1909 Charles David Herrold, an electronics instructor in San Jose, California constructed a broadcasting station. It used spark gap technology, but modulated the carrier frequency with the human voice, and later music. The station "San Jose Calling" (there were no call letters), continued to eventually become today's KCBS in San Francisco. Herrold, the son of a Santa Clara Valley farmer, coined the terms "narrowcasting" and "broadcasting", respectively to identify transmissions destined for a single receiver such as that on board a ship, and those transmissions destined for a general audience. (The term "broadcasting" had been used in farming to define the tossing of seed in all directions.) Charles Herrold did not claim to be the first to transmit the human voice, but he claimed to be the first to conduct "broadcasting". To help the radio signal to spread in all directions, he designed some omnidirectional antennas, which he mounted on the rooftops of various buildings in San Jose. Herrold also claims to be the first broadcaster to accept advertising (he exchanged publicity for a local record store for records to play on his station), though this dubious honour usually is foisted on WEAF (1922).
In 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the northern Atlantic Ocean. After this, wireless telegraphy using spark-gap transmitters quickly became universal on large ships. In 1913, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was convened and produced a treaty requiring shipboard radio stations to be manned 24 hours a day. A typical high-power spark gap was a rotating commutator with six to twelve contacts per wheel, nine inches (229 mm) to a foot wide, driven by about 2,000 volts DC. As the gaps made and broke contact, the radio wave was audible as a tone in a magnetic detector at a remote location. The telegraph key often directly made and broke the 2,000 volt supply. One side of the spark gap was directly connected to the antenna. Receivers with thermionic valves became commonplace before spark-gap transmitters were replaced by continuous wave transmitters.
Harold J. Power
On March 8, 1916, Harold Power with his radio company American Radio and Research Company (AMRAD), broadcast the first continuous broadcast in the world from Tufts University under the call sign 1XE (it lasted 3 hours). The company later became the first to broadcast on a daily schedule, and the first to broadcast radio dance programs, university professor lectures, the weather, and bedtime stories.
Inventor Edwin Howard Armstrong is credited with developing many of the features of radio as it is known today. Armstrong patented three important inventions that made today's radio possible. Regeneration, the superheterodyne circuit and wide-band frequency modulation or FM. Regeneration or the use of positive feedback greatly increased the amplitude of received radio signals to the point where they could be heard without headphones. The superhet simplified radio receivers by doing away with the need for several tuning controls. It made radios more sensitive and selective as well. FM gave listeners a static-free experience with better sound quality and fidelity than AM.
Audio broadcasting (1919 to 1950s)
The most common type of receiver before vacuum tubes was the crystal set, although some early radios used some type of amplification through electric current or battery. Inventions of the triode amplifier, motor-generator, and detector enabled audio radio. The use of amplitude modulation (AM), with which more than one station can simultaneously send signals (as opposed to spark-gap radio, where one transmitter covers the entire bandwidth of spectra) was pioneered by Fessenden and Lee de Forest.
To this day there is a small but avid base of fans of this technology who study and practice the art and science of designing and making crystal sets as a hobby; the Boy Scouts of America have often undertaken such craft projects to introduce boys to electronics and radio, and quite a number of them having grown up remain staunch fans of a radio that 'runs on nothing, forever'. As the only energy available is that gathered by the antenna system, there are inherent limitations on how much sound even an ideal set could produce, but with only moderately decent antenna systems remarkable performance is possible with a superior set.
The first vacuum tubes
During the mid-1920s, amplifying vacuum tubes (or thermionic valves in the UK) revolutionized radio receivers and transmitters. John Ambrose Fleming developed an earlier tube known as an "oscillation valve" (it was a diode). Lee de Forest placed a screen, the "grid" electrode, between the filament and plate electrode, creating the triode. The Dutch engineer Hanso Schotanus à Steringa Idzerda made the first regular wireless broadcast for entertainment from his home in The Hague on 6 November 1919. He broadcast his popular program four nights per week until 1924 when he ran into financial troubles.
On 27 August 1920, regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in Argentina, pioneered by the group around Enrique Telémaco Susini, and spark gap telegraphy stopped. On 31 August 1920 the first known radio news program was broadcast by station 8MK, the unlicensed predecessor of WWJ (AM) in Detroit, Michigan. In 1922 regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in the UK from the Marconi Research Centre 2MT at Writtle near Chelmsford, England. Early radios ran the entire power of the transmitter through a carbon microphone. In the 1920s, the Westinghouse company bought Lee de Forest's and Edwin Armstrong's patent. During the mid-1920s, Amplifying vacuum tubes (US)/thermionic valves (UK) revolutionized radio receivers and transmitters. Westinghouse engineers developed a more modern vacuum tube.
Political interest in the United Kingdom
The British government and the state-owned postal services found themselves under massive pressure from the wireless industry (including telegraphy) and early radio adopters to open up to the new medium. In an internal confidential report from February 25, 1924, the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy Committee stated:
- "We have been asked 'to consider and advise on the policy to be adopted as regards the Imperial Wireless Services so as to protect and facilitate public interest.' It was impressed upon us that the question was urgent. We did not feel called upon to explore the past or to comment on the delays which have occurred in the building of the Empire Wireless Chain. We concentrated our attention on essential matters, examining and considering the facts and circumstances which have a direct bearing on policy and the condition which safeguard public interests."
Licensed commercial public radio stations
The question of the 'first' publicly targeted licensed radio station in the U.S. has more than one answer and depends on semantics. Settlement of this 'first' question may hang largely upon what constitutes 'regular' programming.
- It is commonly attributed to KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which in October 1920 received its license and went on the air as the first US licensed commercial broadcasting station on November 2, 1920 with the presidential election results as its inaugural show. (Their engineer Frank Conrad had been broadcasting from on the two call sign signals of 8XK and 8YK since 1916.) Technically, KDKA was the first of several already-extant stations to receive a 'limited commercial' license.
- On February 17, 1919, station 9XM at the University of Wisconsin in Madison broadcast human speech to the public at large. 9XM was first experimentally licensed in 1914, began regular Morse code transmissions in 1916, and its first music broadcast in 1917. Regularly scheduled broadcasts of voice and music began in January 1921. That station is still on the air today as WHA.
- On August 20, 1920 E.W. Scripps's 8MK (in 1921 changing to WBL and then to WWJ in 1922) in Detroit started broadcasting. It has carried a regular schedule of programming to the present and also broadcast the 1920 presidential election returns just as KDKA did. Inventor Lee DeForest claims to have been present during 8MK's earliest broadcasts, since the station was using a transmitter sold by his company.
- There is the history noted above of Charles David Herrold's radio services as early as 1909 with call signs FN, SJN, 6XF, and 6XE until 1921 when it became WKQW and then finally KCBS in 1949.
- The first station to receive a commercial license was WBZ, then in Springfield, Massachusetts . Lists provided to the Boston Globe by the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that WBZ received its commercial license on 15 September 1921; another Westinghouse station, WJZ, then in Newark, New Jersey, received its commercial license on November 7, the same day as KDKA did. What separates WJZ and WBZ from KDKA is the fact that neither of the former stations remain in their original city of license, whereas KDKA has remained in Pittsburgh for its entire existence.
- 2XG: Launched by Lee De Forest in the Highbridge section of New York City, that station began daily broadcasts in 1916. Like most experimental radio stations, however, it had to go off the air when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, and did not return to the air.
- 1XE: Launched by Harold J. Power in Medford, Massachusetts, 1XE was an experimental station that started broadcasting in 1917. It had to go off the air during World War I, but started up again after the war, and began regular voice and music broadcasts in 1919. However, the station did not receive its commercial license, becoming WGI, until 1922.
- 2XN, broadcasting from the City College of New York
- 2ZK, broadcasting in New Rochelle, New York
- WWV, the U.S. Government time service, which had believed to have started 6 months before KDKA in Washington, D.C. but in 1966 was transferred to Ft. Collins, Colorado.
- WRUC, located on Union College in Schenectady, New York; was launched as W2XQ
- WHA (AM), located at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin; was launched as 9XM.
- KQV, one of Pittsburgh's five original AM stations, signed on as amateur station "8ZAE" on November 19, 1919, but did not receive a commercial license until January 9, 1922.
Outside the United States there are also claims for the first radio stations:
- XWA, Marconi's broadcast station in Montreal, Canada, since 1919 (was CFCF, later CINW and shut down in February 2010)
- On August 27, 1920 the Argentina Station started the first transmission from Coliseo Theatre at Buenos Aires, Argentina. Later that station received the name LOR Radio Argentina, and finally LR2 Radio Argentina. That station was in service until 31 December 1997 at 1110 kHz.
For more details on this topic, see Enrique Telémaco Susini.
Broadcasting was not yet supported by advertising or listener sponsorship. The stations owned by manufacturers and department stores were established to sell radios and those owned by newspapers to sell newspapers and express the opinions of the owners. In the 1920s, radio was first used to transmit pictures visible as television. During the early 1930s, single sideband (SSB) and frequency modulation (FM) were invented by amateur radio operators. By 1940, they were established commercial modes.
Westinghouse was brought into the patent allies group, General Electric, American Telephone and Telegraph, and Radio Corporation of America, and became a part owner of RCA. All radios made by GE and Westinghouse were sold under the RCA label 60% GE and 40% Westinghouse. ATT's Western Electric would build radio transmitters. The patent allies attempted to set up a monopoly, but they failed due to successful competition. Much to the dismay of the patent allies, several of the contracts for inventor's patents held clauses protecting "amateurs" and allowing them to use the patents. Whether the competing manufacturers were really amateurs was ignored by these competitors.
These features arose:
- Commercial (United States) or governmental (Europe) station networks
- Federal Radio Commission
- Federal Communications Commission
- Birth of the soap opera
- Race towards shorter waves and FM
FM and television start
In 1933, FM radio was patented by inventor Edwin H. Armstrong. FM uses frequency modulation of the radio wave to reduce static and interference from electrical equipment and the atmosphere. In 1937, W1XOJ, the first experimental FM radio station, was granted a construction permit by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the 1930s, regular analog television broadcasting began in some parts of Europe and North America. By the end of the decade there were roughly 25,000 all-electronic television receivers in existence worldwide, the majority of them in the UK. In the US, Armstrong's FM system was designated by the FCC to transmit and receive television sound.
FM in Europe
After World War II, the FM radio broadcast was introduced in Germany. In 1948, a new wavelength plan was set up for Europe at a meeting in Copenhagen. Because of the recent war, Germany (which did not exist as a state and so was not invited) was only given a small number of medium-wave frequencies, which are not very good for broadcasting. For this reason Germany began broadcasting on UKW ("Ultrakurzwelle", i.e. ultra short wave, nowadays called VHF) which was not covered by the Copenhagen plan. After some amplitude modulation experience with VHF, it was realized that FM radio was a much better alternative for VHF radio than AM. Because of this history FM Radio is still referred to as "UKW Radio" in Germany. Other European nations followed a bit later, when the superior sound quality of FM and the ability to run many more local stations because of the more limited range of VHF broadcasts were realized.
Later 20th century developments
In 1954 Regency introduced a pocket transistor radio, the TR-1, powered by a "standard 22.5V Battery". In the early 1960s, VOR systems finally became widespread for aircraft navigation; before that, aircraft used commercial AM radio stations for navigation. (AM stations are still marked on U.S. aviation charts). In 1960 Sony introduced their first transistorized radio, small enough to fit in a vest pocket, and able to be powered by a small battery. It was durable, because there were no tubes to burn out. Over the next twenty years, transistors displaced tubes almost completely except for picture tubes and very high power or very high frequency uses.
Color television and digital
- 1953: NTSC compatible color television introduced in the US.
- 1962: Telstar 1, the first communications satellite, relayed the first publicly available live transatlantic television signal.
- Late 1960s: The US long-distance telephone network began to convert to a digital network, employing digital radios for many of its links.
- 1970s: LORAN became the premier radio navigation system. Soon, the US Navy experimented with satellite navigation.
- 1987: The GPS constellation of satellites was launched.
- Early 1990s: Amateur radio experimenters began to use personal computers with audio cards to process radio signals.
- 1994: The US Army and DARPA launched an aggressive successful project to construct a software radio that could become a different radio on the fly by changing software.
- Late 1990s: Digital transmissions began to be applied to broadcasting.
Telex on radio
Telegraphy did not go away on radio. Instead, the degree of automation increased. On land-lines in the 1930s, teletypewriters automated encoding, and were adapted to pulse-code dialing to automate routing, a service called telex. For thirty years, telex was the absolute cheapest form of long-distance communication, because up to 25 telex channels could occupy the same bandwidth as one voice channel. For business and government, it was an advantage that telex directly produced written documents.
Telex systems were adapted to short-wave radio by sending tones over single sideband. CCITT R.44 (the most advanced pure-telex standard) incorporated character-level error detection and retransmission as well as automated encoding and routing. For many years, telex-on-radio (TOR) was the only reliable way to reach some third-world countries. TOR remains reliable, though less-expensive forms of e-mail are displacing it. Many national telecom companies historically ran nearly pure telex networks for their governments, and they ran many of these links over short wave radio.
In 1947 AT&T commercialized the Mobile Telephone Service. From its start in St. Louis in 1946, AT&T then introduced Mobile Telephone Service to one hundred towns and highway corridors by 1948. Mobile Telephone Service was a rarity with only 5,000 customers placing about 30 000 calls each week. Because only three radio channels were available, only three customers in any given city could make mobile telephone calls at one time. Mobile Telephone Service was expensive, costing 15 USD per month, plus 0.30 to 0.40 USD per local call, equivalent to about 176 USD per month and 3.50 to 4.75 per call in 2012 USD. The Advanced Mobile Phone System analog mobile cell phone system, developed by Bell Labs, was introduced in the Americas in 1978, gave much more capacity. It was the primary analog mobile phone system in North America (and other locales) through the 1980s and into the 2000s.
Legal issues with radio
When radio was introduced in the 1920s many predicted the end of records. Radio was a free medium for the public to hear music for which they would normally pay. While some companies saw radio as a new avenue for promotion, others feared it would cut into profits from record sales and live performances. Many companies had their major stars sign agreements that they would not appear on radio.
Indeed, the music recording industry had a severe drop in profits after the introduction of the radio. For a while, it appeared as though radio was a definite threat to the record industry. Radio ownership grew from two out of five homes in 1931 to four out of five homes in 1938. Meanwhile record sales fell from $75 million in 1929 to $26 million in 1938 (with a low point of $5 million in 1933), though the economics of the situation were also affected by the Great Depression.
The copyright owners of these songs were concerned that they would see no gain from the popularity of radio and the ‘free’ music it provided. Luckily, everything they needed to make this new medium work for them already existed in previous copyright law. The copyright holder for a song had control over all public performances ‘for profit.’ The problem now was proving that the radio industry, which was just figuring out for itself how to make money from advertising and currently offered free music to anyone with a receiver, was making a profit from the songs.
The test case was against Bamberger Department Store in Newark, New Jersey in 1922. The store was broadcasting music throughout its store on the radio station WOR. No advertisements were heard, except for at the beginning of the broadcast which announced "L. Bamberger and Co., One of America's Great Stores, Newark, New Jersey." It was determined through this and previous cases (such as the lawsuit against Shanley's Restaurant) that Bamberger was using the songs for commercial gain, thus making it a public performance for profit, which meant the copyright owners were due payment.
With this ruling the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) began collecting licensing fees from radio stations in 1923. The beginning sum was $250 for all music protected under ASCAP, but for larger stations the price soon ballooned up to $5,000. Edward Samuels reports in his book The Illustrated Story of Copyright that "radio and TV licensing represents the single greatest source of revenue for ASCAP and its composers […] and [a]n average member of ASCAP gets about $150–$200 per work per year, or about $5,000-$6,000 for all of a member's compositions." Not long after the Bamberger ruling, ASCAP had to once again defend their right to charge fees, in 1924. The Dill Radio Bill would have allowed radio stations to play music without paying and licensing fees to ASCAP or any other music-licensing corporations. The bill did not pass.
- Amateur radio history
- Birth of public radio broadcasting
- Digital audio broadcasting (DAB)
- Digital Radio Mondiale
- History of science and technology
- History of telecommunication
- History of television
- History of videotelephony
- Internet radio
- List of old-time radio people
- Personal area networks
- Radio Act of 1912
- Radio Act of 1927
- Sirius Satellite Radio
- Spark gap transmitter
- Timeline of radio
- Wireless LANs
- Wireless Ship Act of 1910
- XM Radio
Many contributed to wireless. Individuals that helped to further the science include, among others:
- Georg von Arco
- Edouard Branly
- Temistocle Calzecchi-Onesti
- Archie Frederick Collins
- Amos Dolbear
- Thomas Alva Edison
- Michael Faraday
- Reginald Fessenden
- Benjamin Franklin
- Hans Christian Ørsted
- Joseph Henry
- Charles Herrold
- David E. Hughes
- Mahlon Loomis
- Guglielmo Marconi
- James Clerk Maxwell
- Jozef Murgaš
- G. W. Pierce
- William Henry Preece
- Augusto Righi
- Harry Shoemaker
- Adolphus Slaby
- John Stone Stone
- Nathan Stubblefield
- Nikola Tesla
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Media and documentaries
- Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1992) by Ken Burns, PBS documentary based on the 1991 book, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio by Tom Lewis, 1st ed., New York : E. Burlingame Books, ISBN 0-06-018215-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antique radios.|
- "A Comparison of the Tesla and Marconi Low-Frequency Wireless Systems ". Twenty First Century Books, Breckenridge, Co.
- Sparks Telegraph Key Review
- Early Radio History
- "The Invention of Radio". inventors.about.com.
- "Presentation of the Edison Medal to Nikola Tesla". Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Held at the Engineering Society Building, New York City, Friday evening, May 18, 1917.
- Timeline of the First Thirty Years of Radio 1895 – 1925; An important chapter in the Death of Distance. Nova Scotia, Canada, March 14, 2006.
- Portuguese Radio History: Telefonia Sem Fios - História da Rádio em Portugal
- Cybertelecom :: Radio History (legal and regulatory)
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation archives