Today marks the 99th anniversary of the first radio broadcast heard by a very large number of people: the Dempsey vs Carpentier boxing match. (Although a Carpentier was French, he had quite a following in the United States, owing to his distinguished record as a pilot in the First World War.)
Boxing promoter Tex Ricard had the idea that radio broadcasting might be a good way to increase the popularity of prizefighting…there had previously been some broadcasts of fights in local areas with limited audiences, but what was envisaged for this broadcast was a much larger audience over a much wider area. David Sarnoff of RCA, a strong advocate for the development of a broadcasting industry, was evidently a driving force behind this approach. A dedicated phone line from ringside to a transmitter in Hoboken was established, and radio amateurs throughout the Middle Atlantic states were encouraged to set up their receivers in bars, auditoriums, etc, for the benefit of those people (most of the population) who did not have their own radio receivers. The radio audience was estimated at 300,000 people.
The broadcast was not national in scope, owing to the limitations of the AM radio band, but it was a significant milestone in the the delocalization of information. Very soon, network broadcasting, enabled by long-distance dedicated phone links, would make possible programs with truly national audiences. The delocalization trend has continued, with television, intercontinental links via satellite and undersea cable, and the Internet, and has been a powerful driver of social, economic, and political changes.