In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Radio Studies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Bibliographies and Reference Works
  • Industries and Institutions
  • Public Service Broadcasting
  • Representation and Participation
  • Community Radio
  • International Broadcasting
  • Propaganda
  • Policy and Regulation
  • Audiences and Reception
  • Alternatives and “Radical Radio”
  • Documentary
  • Drama
  • Music
  • Talk Radio
  • Journalism and News
  • Sound Art and Experimental Radio

Communication Radio Studies
Stephen Lax
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0094


The field of radio studies has undergone something of a resurgence in recent years. More radio is taught at universities and colleges than ever before, and the past three decades have witnessed growing numbers of scholarly works devoted to radio research while more journals now publish articles on radio. The emergence of two journals devoted entirely to radio research, the Journal of Radio Studies in the United States in 1991 and the United Kingdom’s Radio Journal in 2003, is both an indicator and consequence of this renewal. This rather late discovery of one of the oldest mass media reflects a tendency within media and communication studies to elevate the role of audiovisual media in comparison with audio. Yet, if we can have film studies and television studies, why not radio studies? After all, audio media, and radio in particular, continue not merely to survive while visual media have become ever more widespread, but also have thrived during this period. The portable nature of radio, noted first in the 1950s and 1960s as enabling radio to distinguish itself from the new television services, emerges once more in “personal” media players and mobile or cell phones, its mobility a defining quality that engenders a personal and intimate relationship between the radio receiver and its listener. New audio formats, such as Internet streaming, podcasts, and music downloads, which sit happily alongside “traditional” radio broadcasts in this same listening device, have blurred medium-specific boundaries and encouraged a seamless flow of listening from live, broadcast radio stations, streamed content, and recorded programs. Thus radio studies naturally engages with areas of study shared with other media—for example, audiences and reception, modes of production, the institutional structure of the industry, and programming forms are all legitimate fields of inquiry—and as radio and audio media undergo rapid change, it is appropriate that the long history of the original broadcast medium be brought to bear on the present.

General Overviews

The growing number of overviews of radio studies reflects the resurgence of interest in the field. These overviews reflect on radio’s central place in our media and cultural history. Hendy 2000, though more than a decade old now, remains one of the most comprehensive and considered accounts of radio, while the fact that Lewis and Booth 1989 remains available from the publishers after three decades demonstrates a maturing of the field, to the extent that Lacey 2008 suggests a risk of radio studies becoming too introspective. Crisell 1994 offers an in-depth account of the history and meaning of radio in the United Kingdom, while Pease and Dennis 1995 offers a selection of perspectives on US radio from both academics and industry insiders. One thing this selection of overviews demonstrates is that, with few exceptions, most interest in radio research is concentrated in the North American and European experiences.

  • Crisell, Andrew. 1994. Understanding radio. 2d ed. London: Routledge.

    An opening chapter discusses the characteristics and history of radio’s development, while subsequent chapters consider the different forms of radio programming. Most examples are drawn from the United Kingdom, but the discussion is quite general and applicable more widely.

  • Hendy, David. 2000. Radio in the global age. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

    A thorough examination of radio culture and the radio industry. Hendy discusses the meaning of radio, both for the individual listener and for its place in wider society. He also examines trends in the industry, such as increasing commercialization and the question of whether radio can be considered a global rather than a local or national industry.

  • Lacey, Kate. 2008. Ten years of radio studies: The very idea. Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media 6.1: 21–32.

    DOI: 10.1386/rajo.6.1.21_4

    Published a decade after the formation of the UK Radio Studies Network, this article reflects on the origins of that group, including the reasons for its inception, and considers the risk that the notion of “radio studies” might disconnect the medium from the broader discipline of media and communication studies. It suggests that by affirming the cultural history of radio, it is possible to reconnect radio studies with the rest of the academic field.

  • Lewis, Peter M., and Jerry Booth. 1989. The invisible medium: Public, commercial and community radio. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan.

    An introduction to the development of radio from its inception to the recent past. With examples from countries across the world, it examines the structure of the radio industry, the changing role of the BBC as television emerged in the 1950s, community radio, and radio in developing countries.

  • Pease, Edward C., and Everette E. Dennis, eds. 1995. Radio: The forgotten medium. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    As indicated by its title, this collection, which appeared in an earlier form as a special issue of the Media Studies Journal, seeks to raise the profile of radio as a subject for research. With contributions from academics and practitioners, the volume offers a broad overview of radio in the world, with articles considering the history of radio in Europe and the United States and a section on radio beyond the “Anglo-American” world. Its short, informal articles are succinct and, in most cases, without notes or references.

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