Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio is a non-fiction book by Tom Lewis, a history of radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 in the United States, published by HarperCollins in 1991. The book was adapted into both a 1992 documentary film by Ken Burns
Ken Burns
Kenneth Lauren "Ken" Burns is an American director and producer of documentary films, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs...

 and a 1992 radio drama written and directed by David Ossman
David Ossman
David Ossman is an American writer and comedian, best known as a member of The Firesign Theatre.-Career:...

. The source of the title is from a quote by Lee DeForest.


Ken Burns' documentary first aired on PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

 on January 29, 1992, narrated by actor Jason Robards
Jason Robards
Jason Nelson Robards, Jr. was an American actor on stage, and in film and television, and a winner of the Tony Award , two Academy Awards and the Emmy Award...

. The film focused primarily on the three pioneers of radio in America—David Sarnoff
David Sarnoff
David Sarnoff was an American businessman and pioneer of American commercial radio and television. He founded the National Broadcasting Company and throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his...

, Lee DeForest and Edwin Armstrong
Edwin Armstrong
Edwin Howard Armstrong was an American electrical engineer and inventor. Armstrong was the inventor of modern frequency modulation radio....

—it did not ignore Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor, known as the father of long distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi's law and a radio telegraph system. Marconi is often credited as the inventor of radio, and indeed he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand...

 and Reginald Fessenden
Reginald Fessenden
Reginald Aubrey Fessenden , a naturalized American citizen born in Canada, was an inventor who performed pioneering experiments in radio, including early—and possibly the first—radio transmissions of voice and music...

. The program interspersed audio and musical highlights of "old time" radio
Old-time radio
Old-Time Radio and the Golden Age of Radio refer to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until television's replacement of radio as the primary home entertainment medium in the 1950s...

 with the stories, achievements, failures, scams and bitter feuds between each of the main protagonists. Among those featured is radio and television historian Erik Barnouw
Erik Barnouw
Erik Barnouw was a U.S. historian of radio and television broadcasting.According to the Scribner Encyclopia of American Lives, Erik Barnouw was born in Den Haag in the Netherlands, the son of Adriaan , and Ann Eliza Barnouw...



Broadcast on public radio, the Ossman radio drama originated in 1992 from Washington's WETA-FM. The cast included Steve Allen
Steve Allen
Steve Allen may refer to:*Steve Allen , American musician, comedian, and writer*Steve Allen , presenter on the London-based talk radio station LBC 97.3...

, Jayne Meadows
Jayne Meadows
-Early life:Jayne Meadows was born as Jayne Cotter in Wu-ch'ang, in Heilongjiang, China, to Episcopal missionary parents, the Rev. Francis James Meadows Cotter and his wife, the former Ida Miller Taylor, who had married in 1915. Meadows is the older sister of the late actress Audrey Meadows. She...

, Bonnie Bedelia
Bonnie Bedelia
Bonnie Bedelia Culkin is an American actress best known for her supporting roles in the action film Die Hard and the courtroom drama Presumed Innocent...

, David Ogden Stiers
David Ogden Stiers
David Ogden Stiers is an American actor, director, vocal actor, and musician, noted for his roles in Disney movies, as well as his performances in the television series M*A*S*H as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III and the science fiction drama The Dead Zone as Reverend Gene Purdy...

, Ed Asner
Ed Asner
Edward Asner , commonly known as Ed Asner, is an American film, television, stage, and voice actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, primarily known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Lou Grant on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series, Lou Grant...

, Harry Shearer
Harry Shearer
Harry Julius Shearer is an American actor, comedian, writer, voice artist, musician, author, radio host and director. He is known for his long-running role on The Simpsons, his work on Saturday Night Live, the comedy band Spinal Tap and his radio program Le Show...

, John Astin
John Astin
John Allen Astin is an American actor who has appeared in numerous films and television shows, and is best known for the role of Gomez Addams on The Addams Family, and other similarly eccentric comedic characters.-Early years:...

, John Randolph, Norman Corwin
Norman Corwin
Norman Lewis Corwin was an American writer, screenwriter, producer, essayist and teacher of journalism and writing...

, Peter Bergman
Peter Bergman (comedian)
Peter Paul Bergman is an American writer and comedian, best known as a member of The Firesign Theatre. He plays Lt. Bradshaw in the Nick Danger series....

, Philip Proctor
Philip Proctor
Philip Proctor is an American actor, voice actor and a member of The Firesign Theatre. He plays Rocky Rococo and Nancy in the Nick Danger series. He is from Goshen, Indiana...

 and Rene Auberjonois
Rene Auberjonois
René Murat Auberjonois is an American actor, known for portraying Father Mulcahy in the movie version of M*A*S*H and for creating a number of characters in long-running television series, including Clayton Endicott III on Benson , Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Chef Louis in The Little...


The Morse Code at the end of the TV program's end credits spells out "Baseball next", as Ken Burns' next film was the nine-part series Baseball.

External links

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