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TV's Rapid Growth

Over the last several decades, television and radio broadcasters have used the public airwaves to provide free programming to anyone who could afford a television or radio. And now, just about everyone does own them.  By the end of the 1990s, 99% of U.S. homes had at least one television set.  But the television and radio that was once free and community-based is changing — dramatically.

TV Today and Public Expectations

Broadcasters, who obtain government licenses to use the public airwaves, have always been expected to serve the public interest.  But how well broadcasters are doing this -for instance, airing local interest programs or offering programming geared to children- is hotly contested.  And the transition to digital and high definition television will mean that consumers will either have to buy new television sets or some equipment to make their current televisions compatible with the new digital signals.  It remains to be seen how big the cost impact will be for consumers, and whether there will be any subsidies to ensure that free, over-the-air TV stays free for consumers.

Radio Loses the Local Touch

Media activists argue that radio is not what it used to be: music and information that reflect the local community.  Many radio stations are losing the local touch because of mergers; no longer do the voices you hear over the radio necessarily belong to the people in your community.  Technology allows radio personalities to be broadcasting from just about anywhere in the world and still end up in your living room.  As radio continues to change, new ideas like local, low power radio and digital broadcasting are issues to which consumers should pay close attention.

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