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A History as contributed by others

From: Henry G. Baker [hbaker@netcom.com]:

"RCA was set up to build broadcasting & receiving equipment; RCA got the patents that the Navy had "liberated" in WWI; the idea was to broadcast concerts, etc., just like NPR."

 Nope, nope, nope.  RCA was set up to build *communications* equipment and provide radio communication services, as Marconi had been doing.  Broadcasting didn't come along until a few years later.  David Sarnoff did propose the creation of a non-commercial broadcast organization (interestingly, the names he mentioned were the American Broadcasting Company and the Public Service Broadcasting Company) at the time of his "Radio Music Box" memo, but that idea never got off the ground.

(NBC was started by RCA for this purpose.)

As for the patents, the only ones "liberated" in World War I were those held by German concerns; RCA got rights to the Marconi patents when it acquired the American Marconi assets, and it was at the head of a patent pool that comprised the radio patents of GE, Westinghouse, AT&T and the United Fruit Company (which was interested in radio for its banana boats).

And the antitrust case that broke up the patent pool (and transformed RCA into an independent company) came along in 1930 -- under the Hoover administration -- not under FDR.  

Aside from the requirement that RCA license its patents to all comers at reasonable rates, David Sarnoff got basically what he wanted, and even the patent license requirement was turned into an asset as RCA became almost a "patent factory" that developed inventions for the industry.

I refer everyone to "Empire of the Air".

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