Commercial radio turns 100 this month. Here’s how Canada helped invent the whole medium.

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

One of the most robust creatures on the planet is the cockroach. Gross things, I know, but you have to admire its tenacity. You don’t stick around through 280 million years without being tough. Not only can a cockroach hold its breath for 40 minutes, but it can live for a month without food and live up to a week without its head.

Impressive, but nothing compared to a tiny creature known as a tardigrade. Not only will one of these microscopic buggers survive the vacuum and cold out outer space (absolute zero at -273.15 C), but will also handle pressures six times greater than at the bottom of the ocean. Boil one in alcohol? No problem. And if there’s no water, a tardigrade will shrivel up into a little ball and wait patiently for years to be hydrated. No wonder these things are the only creature to survive all five of Earth’s great extinctions.

This brings me to the tardigrade of media: old-fashioned, over-the-air, terrestrial broadcast radio. It is the oldest of all forms of electronic mass media and despite many efforts to kill it off (talking movies, television, satellite radio, streaming), it’s still with us, powerful, popular, and profitable.

As radio celebrates its 100th birthday, it’s worth looking back on how Canada played a major part in its invention. Yes, Americans will have us believe that the invention of commercial radio was their thing, but I beg to differ on a few counts.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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