1919, General Electric (GE) formed a privately owned corporation
to acquire the assets of the wireless radio company American Marconi
from British Marconi. The organization, known as the Radio Corporation
of America or RCA, was formally incorporated on 17 October of that
year. Shortly thereafter, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT and
T) and Westinghouse acquired RCA assets and became joint owners
of RCA. In 1926, RCA formed a new company, the National Broadcasting
Company (NBC), to oversee operation of radio stations owned by RCA,
General Electric, Westinghouse and AT and T.
the early 1930's, the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit
against the company. In a 1932 consent decree, the organization's
operations were separated and GE, AT and T, and Westinghouse were
forced to sell their interests in the company. RCA retained its
patents and full ownership of NBC. Shortly after becoming an independent
company, RCA moved into new headquarters in the Rockefeller Center
complex in New York City, into what later became known as Radio
other American companies were cutting back on research expenditures
during the depression years, David Sarnoff, President of RCA since
1930, was a staunch advocate of technological innovation. He expanded
RCA's technology research division, devoting increased resources
to television technology. Television pioneer Vladimir Zworykin was
placed in charge of RCA's television research division. RCA acquired
competing and secondary patents related to television technology,
and once the organization felt that the technology had attained
an appropriate level of refinement, it pushed for commercialization
of the new medium.
1938, RCA persuaded the Radio Manufacturers Association (RMA) to
consider adoption of its television system for standardization.
The RMA adopted the RCA version, a 441 line, 30 pictures per second
system, and presented the new standard to the FCC on 10 September
1938. Upon the recommendation of the RMA, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) scheduled formal hearings to address the adoption
of standards. The hearings, however, did not take place until January
In the interim, RCA began production of receivers and initiated
a limited schedule of television programming from the New York transmitters
of the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) basing their service
upon the RMA-RCA standards. The service was inaugurated in conjunction
with the opening of the New York World's Fair on 30 April 1939 and
continued throughout the year. At the commission's hearing addressing
standards on 15 January 1940, opposition to the proposed RMA standards
emerged. The two strongest opponents of the standard were DuMont
Laboratories and Philco Radio and Television. One of the criticisms
voiced by both organizations was the assertion that the 441 line
standard did not provide sufficient visual detail and definition.
Given the lack of a clear industry consensus, the Commission did
not act on the proposed RMA standards.
the absence of official approval, RCA continued to employ the RMA
standards and announced plans in early 1940 to increase production
of television receivers, cut the price to consumers by one-third,
and double their programming schedule. While some commentators saw
this as a reasonable and progressive action, the Commission perceived
it as a step towards prematurely freezing the standards in place,
and as a consequence, scheduled another set of public hearings for
8 April 1940. At these hearings, opponents argued that the action
taken by RCA was stifling research and development into other alternative
standards. As a result of the hearings, the Commission eliminated
commercial broadcasting until further development and refinement
had transpired. Furthermore, the Commission asserted that commercialization
of broadcasting would not be permitted until there was industry
consensus and agreement on one common system. To marshal industry
wide support for a single standard, the RMA formed the National
Television System Committee (NTSC). The NTSC standards, a 525 line,
60 fields per second system, were approved by the FCC in 1941.
years later, RCA also became a major participant in the establishment
of color television standards. In 1949, the organization proposed
to the FCC that its dot sequential color system, which was compatible
with existing black and white receivers, be adopted as the new color
standard. Citing shortcomings in the compatible systems offered
by RCA and other organizations, the FCC opted to formally adopt
an incompatible color system offered by the Columbia Broadcasting
System as the color standard. RCA appealed this decision all the
way to the Supreme Court, while simultaneously refining their color
system. A second NTSC was formed to examine the color issue. In
1953, the FCC reversed itself and endorsed a modified version of
the RCA dot sequential system compatible color system offered by
the 1950s, RCA continued the military and defense work in which
it had been heavily engaged during World War II. In the late 1950s
and early 1960s, the company became involved with both satellite
technology and the space program. During the 1960s, RCA began to
diversify as the company acquired such disparate entities as the
publishing firm Random House, and the car rental company Hertz.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, RCA began to divest itself
of many of its acquired subsidiaries. In June 1986, RCA was acquired
by General Electric, the organization that had originally established
it as a subsidiary. GE retained the brand name RCA, established
NBC as a relatively autonomous unit, and combined the remainder
of RCA's businesses with GE operations.
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Broadcasting Company; United
States: Networks; Sarnoff,