Use of Radiotelephony in Broadcasting of Weather, Crop and Market Reports by United States Department of Agriculture--By Means of Its Leased Wire System, Department Sends Reports Direct to Broadcasting Stations
By J. C. Gilbert.
Specialist in Market Extension, Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates, U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Until with the last few months the dissemination of information by radio was largely accomplished by means of radio-telegraph transmission.
Previous to the war the Weather Bureau, United States Department of Agriculture, experimented in one of the western states, using the radio-telegraph transmitting equipment of one of the agricultural colleges. In that state a great many radio amateurs were interested in the matter, and their co-operation was secured to the extent that it was found to be entirely feasible to broadcast by radio-telegraph the weather reports from this western college.
In December, 1920, the first market report by radio-telegraph was broadcasted from the laboratory of the Bureau of Standards, Washington, D. C. Copies of this report as received at a distance of more than 100 miles were made and compared with the original and found to be substantially correct
On April 16, 1921, the air mail radio service of the Post Office Department took over the broadcasting of market reports for the Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates of the Department of Agriculture, at its stations in Washington, D. C., Belfonte, Pa., Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Louis, Mo., and Omaha, Neb. This constituted a chain of broadcasting stations practically from the Atlantic Coast to the Missouri River, about midway between the northern and southern boundaries of the country.
These stations began the broadcasting of the reports on wave lengths ranging from 800 meters to 1,800 meters by spark transmission. Later in the year this chain of stations was extended westward from Omaha to the Pacific Coast by the addition of relayed broadcasting from North Platte, Neb., Rock Springs, Wyo., and Elko, Nev. Also during the year the transmitting equipment in the air mail radio stations was changed from quenched spark type to undamped arc, and the broadcasts were sent out on wave lengths varying from 2,500 to 4,000 meters.
During the latter part of 1921 the development in transmission of radiotelephony and the establishment of broadcasting stations sending out entertainment by radiophone brought about a great demand on the part of the public for receiving equipment which would enable them to hear these services.
Some of the larger radio manufacturing companies in the country established high power radiophone stations at several points in the East and Middle West, and the technical departments of some of the universities also began to send out broadcasts of entertainment at various times.
The possibilities of radiophone broadcasting from the standpoint of the average layman and the farmer appealed immediately to a number of those who were interested in the development of efficient means of disseminating essential agricultural information, and arrangements have been made recently with a number of stations to handle the reports of both the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates.
The Weather Bureau, through its large number of field representatives located in every state in the Union, has made arrangements to deliver to local broadcasting stations the daily weather reports for dissemination, assuring themselves first that the station is capable of maintaining consistent service.
The Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates which maintains a leased wire ranging from Boston, Mass., to Omaha and Minneapolis in the west, has arranged with several stations located at points on this leased wire where representatives are located, for the dissemination of market and crop information.
Schedules have been arranged for at New York City, Washington, D. C., Pittsburgh, Pa., Columbus, Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago, Madison, Wis., Minneapolis, Minn., St. Louis, Jefferson City and Kansas City, Mo., and Lincoln, Neb. At all these points market reports, taken from the leased wire system of the federal bureau, are prepared and handed direct to the broadcasting stations.
There are a few instances in the West where arrangements have been made with broadcasting stations to rebroadcast by radio-telephone the market reports which are disseminated by the air mail radio stations of the Post Office Department. In one instance, a state marketing agency not located at any point on the leased wire is having special market telegrams sent to it from one of the federal bureau's branch offices, thus enabling this isolated broadcasting station to make available to the people in the state some of the information which goes over the leased wire system of the federal bureau.
Considerable interest has developed all over the country in the dissemination of weather, crop and market information by radio, and requests have come to the department for assistance in establishing schedules in states not connected with the Department of Agriculture by leased wire. Some arrangements probably may be made whereby the information can be placed in the hands of the broadcasting stations in southern and western states through the co-operation of the press associations or by having the reports telegraphed direct to the broadcasting stations from a federal bureau branch office.
In a great many cases the newspapers of the country have come to appreciate the possibilities of radio broadcasting of news items, and several newspapers have established high-power broadcasting equipment. In several cases arrangements have been made for these newspapers to broadcast the reports of the Department of Agriculture--both weather reports and reports of the Bureau of Markets and Crop Estimates--many of which they receive on the press wire, particularly when the newspapers are not located on points of the leased wire system of the Department of Agriculture.
Discussion always arises in amateur radio circles when receiving equipment is mentioned. The amateurs, of whom there are many thousands in this country, are really radio experimenters, and to a large extent they have either constructed their own equipment in their own workshops or have assembled it from parts bought from electrical companies.
It is not believed, however, that the average layman and farmer would care to proceed in this manner. What he will want is an inexpensive, efficient, receiving equipment in the smallest possible number of units which can be connected together easily, and which will be capable of securing for him the broadcasts of news, weather, crop and market reports, and entertainment with the least possible knowledge of radio technic on his part.
Within the past few months many of the radio electrical companies have offered to the public more or less complete equipment at various prices, ranging from $25 for the simplest crystal detector sets to many hundreds of dollars for the more elaborate audion bulb receivers. It has been estimated that simple, complete equipment capable of giving a fairly wide range of service can be purchased, together with the various accessories necessary, for about $75.
If the cost of this equipment can be reduced to $50 or less, it appears that a very large number of farmers and people in small towns all over the United States will avail themselves of such equipment, provided, of course, that they can be assured of a continuation of the present tendency in broadcasting, and that information will continue to be sent out from a large number of stations so that no one will be more than 300 miles away from stations that supply practically all classes of information.
There are many technical problems connected with the development of radio-telephone broadcasting, including the possibility of interference between broadcasting stations, and the possible interference due to certain peculiar effects produced in receiving sets which cause electrical discharges to take place.
So great has become the demand for opportunity to broadcast various types of in formation that it has been found necessary to lodge special authority in the Bureau of Navigation in the Department of Commerce, so that specific control of the operation of stations could be had. Specified wave lengths will doubtless be set aside for certain services, and the kind of services to be handled by each broadcasting station will be definitely outlined.
When all of this has been accomplished, bulletins will undoubtedly be published showing the specific type of information or entertainment available from each broadcasting station, together with time schedules and technical information as to wave length, character of transmission, and the type of receivers best adapted to secure the programs broadcasted.