Italy started hearing of radiophonic services ever since 1910, in the last
period of giolittian era. Italy was then knowing its first industrial
revolution, and it seemed possible in this new field of communications to
pass in a short while from the first pioneering experiences to organizing
commercial operating structures.
But the outbreak of World War Firstand the following crisis of post-war
reconversion led to a halt some projects in progress and blocked the carrying
out of the laws that had been approved by the parlaiment in the meanwhile.
In fact, only after the advent of fascism, with the review of economical
policy carried out by the minister of finances Alberto De' Stefani,
problem gained new actuality, without heading nonetheless to a quick
In fact a half dozen enterprises where interested in obtaining the concession of radiophonic service: from Italo-Radio, with french and german assets guaranteed by the Banca Commerciale, to the Radiofono society, born with the sharing of societies of the radioelectrical industry; from FATME to ALLOCCHIO-BACCHINIl, from PEREGO (controlled by the Compagnia Marconi, strongly protected by the minister Costanzo Ciano) to the Societa' Italiana Audizioni Circolari (Sirac) born with the purpose to secure italian market to the receiving equipments built by the american Western Electric.
Eventually Radiofono and Sirac made it: from their fusion was born in Rome on august 27, 1924 the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (with a capital stock of 1.400.000 lire, 85% of which subscribed by the Radiofono), and to U.R.I. the government granted the exclusive concession of circular radioauditions for six years, extendable to four more. President of the society was elected Enrico Marchesi, coming of Fiat, where he had been administration manager for long years, and vice president Luigi Solari, very near to the interests of Guglielmo Marconi.
Two months later, october 6, 1924, from a hall in the Corrodi palace in Rome started a regular sevice of circular radio transmissions limited to some hours of evening programs. In fact the start of radio in Italy took place almost unattended.
The radiophonic industry was born with a certain delay compared with other western countries, and the principle of exclusive concession was only partly due to reasons of political opportunity. Economical difficulties and mostly the few capitals available to be invested on a such uncertain field were the real reasons that led to the adoption of a monopoly. Even more, apart of the sending station of Rome built in open countryside, the national network was still to be built. Two years were needed to install the stations of Milan and Naples, and then three years more for those in Bolzano, Genova and Turin .
But the first national big power sending station, the one in Rome-Santa Caterina, was realized only in 1930, the same year in wich was realized the Research Laboratory in Turin. In the course of this first year of activity the total number of subscribers remained small: not more than 27.000 in 1926, almost doubel in 1928 (when for example in Germany were more or less two millions). Radio was considered a luxury article: few could afford the price of a receiver, even the simpler one, and of the subscription, which, summed with taxes, was the amount of a medium month salary of an employee. From the other side, the hours of transmission were few, in the late afternoon and in the evening, and were mostly devoted to musical recordings, comedies and some short news. In 1928 started live sport reports, but these and other enterprises bound to widen the programs and to meet the desires of the public (Lyric and opera recordings, dance and song music, plays and variety) could not obtain the desired effect. More, the "big crisis" of 1929 hit also Italy with terrible results on employments and on people's purchasing power. Only when consequences of the crisis began to fade, subscribers became more numerous: at the end of 1931 they were 242.000, and they were not composed of a small elite but by lower and upper middle class.
In the meanwhile, since december 1927, Uri became the EIAR (Italian company for radio auditions). Enrico Marchesi, with the help of Fiat (big shareholder of Uri and Eiar), realized the main structures of radio industry, on which in the following years was possible to realize a progressive widening of both programs and subscribers. Under his management, and with the help of general director Raoul Chiodelli, was undertaken the construction of the Rome Center of Radio Production, which, ended in 1931, could contain the compartimental direction and seven studios plus auxiliary services; he created also, in october 1926, the SIPRA (Italian Society for Radio Advertising), shared between Uri, Sirac and a group of milanese entrepreneurs (among them engineer Allocchio, builder of radio equipments, and editor Arnoldo Mondadori). But societary activity could't have continued weren't it been for massive public financing. What happened in fact with Eiar, a special society with private assets, that had the exclusive state concession for 25 years of radio auditions, aside of many incentives for technical improvement of transmitting stations.
After Marchesi came in november 1934 Giancarlo Vallauri, president of SIP (Hydroelectrical Piedmontese Society), which one year before had become the biggest shareolder of the group. EIAR become a "Piedmontese colony" until the early '30s, and this was peculiar to the Italian Radio Society. In 1929 the studios and offices of EIAR in Turin moved to the Electrical Palace, head offices of SIP. Two years later SIP incorporated the Turin Electrotelephonic Industries Society SIET), major shareolder of a society building radio equipment and telephonic cables. The Piedmontese peculiarity faded in the following years: not only because of the opening of the new centre of via Asiago in Rome (which had five brand new studios) and, after, because of the financial reform that led SIP in the hands of IRI, but also and mostly because of the political interest of Mussolini in the development of the radio servicies. At the start he was not very interested to the radio, but with time he realized the big impact of radio on some countries and the importance of this new media to his propaganda.
The 6196 hours of transmission in 1927 grew to 15.768 in 1929 and to 43.723 in 1934. The total output power of the plants (together with their development on the whole territory and considered the major plants of Santa Palomba and Prato Smeraldo) grew from 1,7 kW in 1924 to 187,5 in 1932. To widen the area of reception, which continued to be confined to citizens of Northern and central regions, the government installed numerous radios with loudspeakers in the offices and centres of the fascist party (the so called "case del fascio"), in schools, offices, barracks, public meeting places. To reach the farmers was created a Rural radio center. This wide diffusion of hearing points insured to the regime huge possibilities to plan the consent and to plagiarize the population, as appared evident during Ethyopian war in 1935-36 and during the Spanish civil war to the side of Franchist troops. To improve and to increase the persuasion and the totalitarian political teaching, a decree of september 26, 1935 (law in january 9, 1936) stated the EIAR programs had to be controlled by the Ministry of print and propaganda.
Subscribers grew steadily in the second half of the '30s until they reached the goal of one million in 1938. Meanwhile EIAR got new operating dimension. In december 1939 was opened in Rome the Artistic and Technical Formation Center for radiodiffusion personnel (reporters, scriptwriters, directors, announcers, editors, etc.). In the following years was completed a plant improvement plan: numerous stations was connected via cable; a new antenna was built in Rome - Prato Smeraldo directed towards the United States, which quadrupled the possibility to receive italian short wave programs in America; broadcastings of the Third program were started, by means of a group of stations (Firenze I, Napoli I, Milano II, Torino II, Genova II, Bari II, Roma III); was opened the UHF station od Roma - Monte Mario (in which was installed also the experimental T.V. staion) and at last was activated also the station of Napoli II, foolowed in 1938 by Milano III, Ancona, Torino IV and Catania. Even broadcastings were improved with the offer of new music, entertaiment and information programs.
But industry couldn't follow the incoming progresses of radio services. The attempt to realize a new cheap radio called the RADIOBALILLA was not successful; but autarchy imposed by the regime obbliged to use cheap materials, thus cancelling technical improvements. So the consumer was obbliged to spend more and more or to accept second-rate equipments. On the other side national industry could increase its potential and its sells; the leading italian enterprises (Ansaldo Lorenz, Marelli, Siti, Allocchio Bacchini, CGE) even improving their position, couldn't get rid of foreign industry, mostly Telefunken and Philips, in a market that remained small in comparison to the standards of european countries.
More than the period of the late '30s, with its short economical recovery, it was the confused war period to open the way to massive expansion of the radio. News from the war front and military bullettins, followed anxiously by the peple multiplied hering of the radio: in 1942 there were two millions users, served by 34 Medium Wave stations with a total output of 850 kW, and by 9 short wave stations with a total output of 431 kW. Many of those installations were destroyed during the war; but in 1945 a new 100 kW station strted its service, permitting to RAI - Radioaudizioni Italia (this was the new name of EIAR, which in dicember of that year was re-consituted under the direction of Carlo Arturo Jemolo) to start again broadcasting to the whole national territory with two networks.
In 1948, completed the re-building, was opened in Milan, near of the Park Tower, the first experimental F.M. Station. On these bases in 1950 wasinaugurated the Third Channel, with prevailing cultural interests, diffuses by means of the new F.M. stations network plus three Short Wave stations. It was newly assessed the public nature of radio service, and consequently its monopolistic regime: on january 26, 1952 the government gave to RAI (directed since 1946 by Giuseppe Spataro) the exclusivity of radio, TV and cable broadcasting until december the 15, 1972. The major shareolder of the group became now IRI, after SIP.
Followed a wide program ti improve the existing stations and to build new equipment. But the most important event was the opening in april 1952 of the Production Center of Corso Sempione in Milan, with 23 radio studios and two TV studios plus a TV broadcaster. It was thus possible to start, during the "Fiera Campionaria", the first experimental TV broadcasting and a first experimental connection between Milan and Turin using microwaves. The following year it was the turn of Rome, where it was activated the TV broadcaster of Monte Mario and the TV studio in via Asiago.
Since the half of the '50s started a new chapter for this field. As a
matter of fact even before hte last war TV started to gain a certain
importance even in our country, as a consequence of the experiments
carried put by SAFAR (which since the half of '30s built a
complete broadcaster and receiver with cathode ray tubes) and by
Magneti Marelli (which in 1939 gained the contract of the
experiments from the Torre del Parco broadcaster in Milan).
But war and the post-war difficulties led to a stop all the activities
and experiments. Only in january 1954 strted the first regular TV
broadcasting service in Italy: broadcastings were performed with a VHF
network formed by the stations Torino-Eremo, Milano-Monte Penice,
Portofino, Monte Serra, Monte Pellia, Roma-Monte Mario.
On april 11, with a decree of the shareolders, society gained the name of
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