Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / February 1927

February 1927: Federal Radio Commission Established

On February 23, 1927 President Calvin Coolidge signed Public Law 69-632. This law, which became known as the Radio Act of 1927, superseded the previous Radio Act of 1912. The 1912 act, which focused on maritime radio, had put the power of regulation squarely in the hands of the Secretary of Commerce; the new act created a Federal Radio Commission to regulate the use of all radio frequency in the U.S. In their first report the Commission described the change and enumerated some of their duties: “A wholly new Federal body was called into being to deal with a condition which had become almost hopelessly involved during the months following July 3, 1926, when it became clear that the Department of Commerce had no authority under the 1912 radio law to allocate frequencies, withhold radio licenses, or regulate power or hours of transmission.” (FRC July 1, 1927) The Federal Radio Commission listened to conflicting claims to frequencies and weighed public opinion; they became known for withholding radio licenses from broadcasters in their zeal to “bring order out of chaos, by placing the 732 broadcasting stations on 89 wavelengths, so as not to create interference.” The FRC lasted only a few years before it was replaced in 1934 by the Federal Communications Commission, which had even broader powers to regulate commercial broadcasters. ITS continues to work with the FCC to coordinate government and commercial spectrum use and manage the ever-more crowded radio spectrum.