Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio

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Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
AuthorTom Lewis
CountryUnited States
PublishedSeptember 1, 1991
Media typePrint
ISBN978-0-060-18215-1 (Hardcover)
Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
Empire of the Air.png
DVD release cover
Directed byKen Burns
Produced byKen Burns, Morgan Wesson, Tom Lewis [1]
Screenplay byGeoffrey Ward
Based onEmpire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
by Tom Lewis
Narrated byJason Robards
Edited byPaul Barnes
Florentine Films, WETA-TV
Distributed byPBS
Release date
  • January 29, 1992 (1992-01-29)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio is a non-fiction book by Tom Lewis, a history of radio in the United States, published by HarperCollins in 1991. [2] The book was adapted into both a 1992 documentary film by Ken Burns and a 1992 radio drama written and directed by David Ossman. [3] The source of the title is from a quote by Lee DeForest.


Ken Burns' documentary first aired on PBS on January 29, 1992, narrated by actor Jason Robards.[4] The film focused primarily on the three pioneers of radio in America—David Sarnoff, Lee DeForest and Edwin Armstrong. [5] The program interspersed audio and musical highlights of "old time" radio with the stories, achievements, failures, scams and bitter feuds between each of the main protagonists.[6] Among those featured is radio and television historian Erik Barnouw. [7]


Broadcast on public radio, the Ossman radio drama originated in 1992 from Washington's WETA. The cast included Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Bonnie Bedelia, David Ogden Stiers, Ed Asner, Harry Shearer, John Astin, John Randolph, Norman Corwin, Peter Bergman, Philip Proctor and René Auberjonois.


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