Broadcasting History - Various Articles

Election Eve Broadcasts (Biel)

Date: Sat, 17 May 2003 17:58:12 -0400
Subject: Election Eve broadcast, etc

I remember reading years ago this [1944] broadcast caused such a stir a couple of networks--the very next day--changed their rules so it could 'never happen again'.

I have a home recorded Recordio disc with two sections from a gala November 1, 1948 election-eve broadcast called "The Dewey-Warren Bandwagon." So these types of programs did continue on at least one network. One segment on the disc is part of Abbott and Costello doing "Who's On First." I think the other section contains Frank Morgan, but the disc was mislabeled "Henry Morgan."

As you wondered in your message, on what grounds could they do that. I believe that the broadcast was a paid political broadcast which I understand was aired on both CBS and NBC. Am I wrong about that?

Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1934 required stations to make available time on an equal basis to all candidates for a particular public office if they make time available to any candidate for that office. That doesn't mean requiring stations to give free time to candidates if their opponents buy time. One buys then they can all buy. One gets free than they all have to get free. They could refuse to sell time at all, but the FCC has considered that type of decision to not be in the public interest.

CBS earlier in 1944 had refused a political broadcast by a Senator whose name I can't recall, but who was seeking the Republican nomination, and his broadcast contained very strong attacks against FDR. CBS was forced to air the broadcast, and informed they could not censor political context during a campaign.

Broadcasts made under Section 315 could not be censored by a station. They had to be aired as submitted. But Section 315 broadcasts had to be "USE" of the station "BY the candidate". Broadcasts or announcements originating from anybody but the candidate do not come under 315. This is why sometimes you might hear a short statement in the candidates voice saying something like "The announcement was paid by the Joe Blow for Senator committee." I heard one like this yesterday.

I am not sure about the 1944 broadcast you mention, but it might also be a misremembering of a 1936 broadcast I detailed in my dissertation and mentioned here some time ago. It concerns a program broadcast by a Senator who was not up for election himself, but was speaking as a Republican spokesman in opposition to FDR's re-election. Ironically, it was not the Republican candidate's voice that was heard in this broadcast, it was the Democrat's!!!!! In 1932 the Republican National Committee commissioned Gennett Records of Richmond, Indiana to make recordings of some of FDR's 1932 campaign speeches. This always mystified discographers with access to the Gennett ledgers until I uncovered what the recordings were used for. On Saturday Oct..17, 1936, Republican Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenburg had a national address scheduled on CBS which would be broadcast from a Chicago rally. Shortly before the broadcast the CBS personnel noticed that a phonograph was being set up next to Vandenburg's podium, and they discovered that Vandenburg intended to debate with the recorded pre-election pledges of FDR from 1932. Citing their rule against the airing of recordings on the network, CBS Chicago V.P. H. Leslie Atlass tried to get the Republicans not to use the recordings, then ten minutes before air ordered that the broadcast be cut off when the recordings were played. He changed his mind two minutes before air, and allowed the broadcast to commence as originally planned. There was a delay in getting that message to the network operation facilities, and a studio announcer announced that the program was cancelled, but then the opening of the program was heard anyway. New York then cut the program off of the 22 stations it fed, but the 43 CBS stations in the rest of the country heard the whole program. This was front page news the following day all over the country. To work on the publicity, as well as get the program to the cities that didn't hear it, Vandenburg did a recorded version of this address which was aired on local stations. The first 15 minutes of this survives.

There are two ironies about this event. The director of the Public Relations Division of the Republican party was Hill Blackett of the Blackett-Sample-Hummert Advertising Agency which had recently sparred with the networks over the re-broadcasting of recordings of their soap operas produced by Frank Hummert of the agency. Blackett knew full well that the recording ban covered all types of broadcasts, but tried to worm out of it by saying he believed the ban was put in place only to protect performers from not getting paid for recorded re-broadcasts. But, here is the other irony, CBS had made an exception to this rule when at 11:15 P.M. January 4, 1935 they rebroadcast via recording FDR's entire State of the Union Address given 11 hours earlier. This 1935 broadcast was not cited in any of the reports of the Vandenburg broadcast I have read, but it would have been quite a political football if someone had remembered it. Even today I don't think that this broadcast has ever been noted anywhere since 1935 but in my dissertation--and now the OTR Digest.

Michael Biel

Radio Magazines (McLeod)

Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 12:35:45 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Radio Magazines

Prior to about 1935 radio schedules were limited to newspaper columns and some small publications in larger cities like Chicago and New York (where sales of the magazines could be profitable and enough stations existed to make a compilation worthwhile).

There were quite a few such regional magazines. One of the most interesting was "New York Radio Program Weekly," published in 1927-28 by Hugo Gernsback of "Radio News" and science-fiction-magazine fame. This publication contained detailed program listings for all New York City stations, along with feature articles on programs and personalities, illustrated by line drawings and cartoons. The cover illustrations were rather hideous paintings, but otherwise this is an excellent publication both for research and casual reading.

"Broadcast Weekly" was a small, digest-size magazine published on the West Coast from the late twenties into the mid-thirties, and contained detailed listings for all stations in the region. Most of the editorial contact was taken from press releases or tear sheets, but there were occasionally original articles on West Coast-based performers.

Another magazine of interest in the late 1920s was "Radio Index," usually abbreviated to "RADEX." This was a digest-size magazine focused on the interest of "DX" listeners—people whose primary interest in radio was locating and tuning in distant stations. Abbreviated program listings were published, along with detailed rosters of all functioning broadcast stations. Most of the editorial content revolved around DX topics, but occasionally short star profiles were published, usually drawn from press releases.

"Broadcast Listener," based in Cincinnati, was another interesting magazine of the 1926-27 era. There were no program schedules, but there were articles and news items on personalities and programs. However, the magazine also featured a regular department devoted to Theosophy, a quasi-religious "New Thought" movement of the era, and many readers found this section to be both offensive and inappropriate—and its presence probably contributed to "Broadcast Listener's" demise. The effect was something like if TV Guide suddenly decided to feature a weekly column based on the philosophy of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh—it simply wasn't the sort of content readers expected or wanted from the magazine.

Doubleday-Doran's "Radio Broadcast," beginning in 1922, was probably the slickest radio magazine of the twenties, and the one most often preserved in bound volumes by libraries. It began as a technical journal, but by 1923 was devoting a section each month to programming issues and personality profiles, and also dealt with broadcasting-industry-business topics as needed. This wide focus eventually compromised the magazine, and in 1929 it became strictly a technical magazine devoted to the radio-repair-and-service trade before going out of business in the summer of 1930.

The most important nationally-published radio magazine of the era—was, by far, "Radio Digest," which began as a weekly newsprint tabloid in 1922. At first the Digest dealt with mostly technical subjects, but by the end of 1923 it featured detailed weekly program listings for major stations, organized by time zone.

The publication switched to semimonthly format in 1925, and began featuring two-color art covers in 1927. The content shifted more and more away from technical topics to focus on programs and personalities—and beginning in 1926, the magazine even published fiction. (Its 1926 serial "The Step on the Stair" was adapted for radio by Fred Smith of WLW, Cincinnati, becoming radio's first-ever mystery serial.)

In 1927, the magazine switched to monthly publication, and in the summer of 1928 it abandoned the tabloid format for a new perfect-bound standard-sized magazine format with full-cover art covers. This format was published quarterly until the fall of 1929 when monthly publication resumed.

"Radio Digest" from fall 1929 into 1932 is probably the definitive publication on programs and personalities of the era—the editorial quality of its articles were excellent, and its scope was impressive, giving equal coverage both to network and local/regional personalities. In the summer of 1930, "Radio Digest" merged with Doubleday-Doran's "Radio Broadcast," and moved from Chicago to New York—but otherwise remained unchanged, other than a switch to bi-monthly publication in 1932. Around this time, Radio Digest Publishing Company began a second magazine, "Radio Art." This was exclusively a trade publication, available by subscription only, dealing primarily with the business aspects of broadcasting, and intended as a competitor to "Broadcasting" magazine.

The Depression's impact on advertising sales compromised the magazine's cash low, however, and in the spring of 1933 "Radio Digest" underwent a radical change, transforming into a new monthly magazine called "Radio Fan-Fare." This is a difficult magazine to describe—it had "attitude" in a way that no radio magazine had ever had, with an emphasis on snide, smart-mouthed, and sarcastic criticism of programs and personalities. This "College Humor" approach to radio inflamed old-school Radio Digest readers, and "Radio Fan Fare" died before the end of 1933. It made for interesting reading while it lasted, but it was a far cry from "Radio Digest's" glory days.

From 1935 to 1942 Radio Guide was published on a regional basis weekly.

Radio Guide actually began in Chicago and New York in November 1931, as a venture of Moe Annenberg, publisher of the Daily Racing Form. For about its first year it was presented in a tabloid newspaper format, with most of its editorial content coming from press releases—although New York Journal radio critic Mike Porter and music critic Carleton Smith were regular contributors from very early on.

Beginning in 1933, Radio Guide began to feature two-color "art covers" and was presented in a saddle-stitched large-magazine format. There was also a new emphasis on original editorial content, and Chicago Herald-Examiner radio editor Evans Plummer became a regular contributor with his "Plums and Prunes" column.

Full color art covers were featured beginning in the spring of 1935, and continued until the magazine switched to black-and-white photo covers in early 1938. Many of these covers were elegant portraits of stars-of-the-moment painted by Charles Rubino, and these issues are perhaps the most collectible of the run. This period also marked the peak of Radio Guide's editorial quality—it published substantial criticism and serious journalism about radio, such as its 1935 expose revealing that certain elements of "Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour" were rigged.

In about 1940 the publication morphed into Movie-Radio Guide so it could begin covering the Hollywood stars and their latest movies along with the radio celebs.

This happened as a direct result of Moe Annenberg being sent to prison for tax evasion in 1940—the magazine was taken over by his son Walter (later publisher of "TV Guide") and the change to a combination radio-movie format was an attempt to pump up the cash flow by merging Radio Guide with Screen Guide, another troubled Annenberg publication of the era.

The transition to Movie Radio Guide was unfortunately accompanied by a sharp drop in editorial quality—the publication became much more of a gee-whiz celebrity fanrag, rather like what's happened to TV Guide over the last fifteen years.

I have yet to find a Movie-Radio Guide published after 1942/1943, the loss may be war related (shortage of paper or ink) or just financial.

Movie Radio Guide ceased publication at the end of 1943, as a casualty of the wartime paper shortage. The magazine had tried several strategies for reducing page count during 1942-43, and switched to a monthly format in early 1943, which continued until the publication went out of business at the end of the year.

Oh yes, the Guide was published in an oversized format (13x16 approx) and had beautiful color illustrations of various actors/actresses on the cover. Some were done by fairly famous artists and eBay occasionally has someone selling/buying the covers just for the artwork.

Coverless copies of the Guide are an excellent value if you're interested more in the content of the magazine than in the pretty pictures on the cover. I've come across them in bulk at flea markets for a couple of dollars per copy. Complete issues with covers, especially from the Rubino-art-cover period, will rarely sell for less than $8-$10 per copy, and popular cover subjects will usually sell for far more.

From 1941 to 1963 a publication called Radio Mirror was published. It had a more traditional magazine format (8-1/2 x 11) with more advertisements and articles about the actors.

Radio Mirror actually started in 1933, and was probably the best of the straight fan magazines, which actually isn't saying a whole lot: the somewhat-cheesier Radioland and Radio Stars being its major competitors. It was targeted almost entirely to working-class women, and its editorial content rarely advanced beyond the manipulative "Will Jane Radiostar Find Love?" level. There were some interesting personality profiles in the magazine during its early years, but by the 1940s it had degenerated sharply, and its articles from this era should be taken with large quantities of salt. Even during the thirties the reporters for these fanrags tended to be very sloppy with facts, and when using these magazines as research sources one needs to be very aware of the influence of press agents, and to always double-check claims of fact before depending on such articles as valid sources.

Under the title TV-Radio Mirror, this magazine was still being published into the mid-1970s—but by the sixties it focused pretty much entirely on daytime TV serials. It was finally put out of business by hipper, more aggressive competitors like "Soap Opera Digest."


Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2007 23:37:38 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Radio Guide

What years was the guide published? I see it had become Movie-Radio Guide by the 1940's. The wartime paper shortages seemed to have forced them into a monthly schedule sometime during WW2.

Radio Guide began in Chicago and New York in November 1931, as a venture of Moe Annenberg, a former hood and strong-arm man for the Hearst newspaper distribution interests in Chicago (his duties usually involved blackjack-and-brass-knuckle confrontations with distributors of rival publications), who went legit in the twenties as publisher of the Daily Racing Form. For about its first year it was presented in a tabloid newspaper format, with most of its editorial content coming from press releases—although New York Journal radio critic Mike Porter and music critic Carleton Smith were regular contributors from very early on.

Beginning in 1933, Radio Guide began to feature two-color "art covers" and was presented in a saddle-stitched large-magazine format. There was also a new emphasis on original editorial content, and Chicago Herald-Examiner radio editor Evans Plummer became a regular contributor with his "Plums and Prunes" column.

Full color art covers were featured beginning in the spring of 1935, and continued until the magazine switched to black-and-white photo covers in early 1938. Many of these covers were elegant portraits of stars-of-the-moment painted by Charles Rubino, and these issues are perhaps the most collectible of the run. This period also marked the peak of Radio Guide's editorial quality—it published substantial criticism and serious journalism about radio, such as its 1935 expose revealing that elements of "Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour" were rigged.

Radio Guide changed both its title and focus in 1940, as a direct result of Moe Annenberg being sent to prison for tax evasion in 1940—the magazine was taken over by his son Walter (later publisher of "TV Guide") and the change to a combination radio-movie format was an attempt to pump up the cash flow by merging Radio Guide with Screen Guide, another troubled Annenberg publication of the era. The transition to Movie Radio Guide was unfortunately accompanied by a sharp drop in editorial quality -- the publication became much more of a shallow celebrity-oriented fanrag, rather like what's happened to TV Guide over the last twenty years.

Movie Radio Guide ceased publication at the end of 1943, as a casualty of the wartime paper shortage. The magazine had tried several strategies for reducing page count during 1942-43, and switched to a monthly format in early 1943, which continued until the publication went out of business at the end of the year.

Coverless copies of the Guide are an excellent value if you're interested more in the content of the magazine than in the pretty pictures on the cover. I've come across them in bulk at flea markets for a couple of dollars per copy. Complete issues with covers, especially from the Rubino-art-cover period, will rarely sell for less than $8-$10 per copy, and popular cover subjects will usually sell for far more. There seems to be little interest in collecting by regional edition, so rarer editions don't usually demand premium prices.


Western Union Clocks (Orr)

Date: Sun, 9 Mar 2003 16:54:39 -0500
From: "Bill Orr"
To: "OTR List"
Subject: Western Union Clocks

Having been a WU Wire Chief as well as a broadcast engineer, I feel qualified to shed a little light on the topic of recent days with apologies to the List Boss for a posting of such "Elizabethan" length.

Each WU office had a "master clock" that was corrected each day at noon, EST from the U.S. Naval Observatory. These master clocks were works of art and machines to be admired. They were about four feet tall , had a glass door and were "state-of-the-art" for those days...complete with Mercury-column pendulums. The supervisor and several of us would gather at the clock several minutes prior to 11:00 AM (in Memphis) as all telegraph activity ceased until the synchronizing signal came down the line. That daily ritual was necessary WU policy and was taken very seriously.

Most of the subscriber's clocks (radio/TV stations, banks, stock offices, etc) had brown cases and yellow faces and were manufactured by the Self Winding Clock Company in Brooklyn, NY. They were of several sizes and configurations...10,11,12 or 15-inch dials in round metal or square wood cases. Some were up to three feet tall in nice wood cabinets with long pendulums and a glass door. As I write this, I have one of the latter hanging on the wall above my computer and ham gear. I found it in an antique shop about five years ago. They wanted 150 bucks for it and said it was beyond repair. I didn't tell them my background, brought it home and worked on it for about a month. It hasn't missed a beat since, but back to the topic.

The subscriber's clocks, regardless of size, all had pendulums and two #6 so-called "telephone batteries" whose sole purpose was to wind the clock periodically, usually once per hour. One could hear a buzzing sound as the winding took place. The batteries could last over five years. In practice, they were changed out more often. As Frank Kelly said in his posting, a synchronizing signal would be received from the local WU office each hour on the hour. That signal came from the master clock previously mentioned in a complicated way. Subscriber's clocks were seldom more than a couple seconds off and usually slow although they could be corrected up to two minutes either side of the hour. Some had a red light that would glow as the reset occurred. Now, to answer Frank's question about joining the net on time...remember that the synchronizing action took place out of local WU offices all over the country at precisely the same time. Neglecting propagation time of the DC pulses in the wire lines, even the network's clocks were reset at the same moment as Frank's was. The net result being that everything at every location happened at once at 8:00:00 using Frank's example. BTW, WU had VERY strict rules regarding the mounting, care and maintenance of the clocks. They had trained "clock men" to take care of all of that.

Getting to Bob Scherago's a given locality on a given circuit, all clocks were indeed in series. In telegraphic communication everything is in series working against a ground in both the originating and terminating locations. That is not to say that in a large city such as Chicago or St. Louis that ALL clocks were in series. All such cities had large distribution bays feeding a multitude of individual circuits. BTW, when he disconnected the wire, alarms sounded in the local WU office.

An interesting side note...when WU ceased their time services in the 1970's, they allowed all their customers to keep the clocks if they wished. Most all of them ended up in collector's homes or in a radio station's junk closet, probably with all those forgotten ET's.

Bill Orr
Tulsa, OK

Dayton, O., Doesn't Want Radio Station

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Dec. 6, 1930.

CINCINNATI, O., Dec. 5—Dayton, O., is one town that doesn't want a radio station.

When a new corporation applied to the federal radio commission for permission to erect a new radio broadcasting station in Dayton, Wayne G. Lee, managing director of the chamber of commerce there, entered a protest.

In a letter to General C. McK. Saltzman, chairman of the commission, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Lee pointed out that the Dayton chamber of commerce was opposed to the erection of any broadcasting station that would be less than 5,000 watts of power, on the ground that it would interfere with national chain programs carried by WSAI, the 500 watt station in Cincinnati. Any such station, Lee said, would not be of sufficient size to get programs for broadcasting from Dayton.

Black Radio Programming (McLeod)

Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 11:09:39 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Radio Lessons in History

In a similar vein, are there shows other than Amos 'N Andy, There's A New World A Coming, Destination Freedom, Brunswick Brevities, The Story of Ruby Valentine, The Johnson Family, or Tales From Harlem that reflect the actual or perception of African American life? I've also heard of a program called "The All Negro Hour" hosted by Jack Cooper in Chicago in 1932 but have not located any episodes or transcripts.

I'd strongly recommend "Freedom's People," a thirteen-week series done by NBC in 1941-42 in cooperation with the Federal Radio Education Committee. This was a documentary with each week's program tracing a different element of African-American life, and many prominent personalities in pre-war-era black America are featured, ranging from A. Phillip Randolph to Paul Robeson to Fats Waller. Each week's program was built around the theme "Contributions To...." and subjects covered included Education, Military Service, Industry, the Arts, Science, and the Theatre.

After this program's network run, transcriptions of the series were distributed by the FREC to schools for classroom use, and all of the episodes exist at the Library of Congress. Some of the episodes are in limited OTR circulation, although they're not easy to find—I'm hoping to soon have access to several of them.

Another program worth looking for is an episode of the 1938-1939 CBS educational series "Americans All, Immigrants All." This was a 26-week series which spotlighted a different ethnic group each week and traced its history and accomplishments in the United States. The 12/18/38 episode discussed "The Negro In The United States." This was another series distributed in transcription form for classroom use, under the auspices of the Department of the Interior.

There was also a 1933 CBS serial called "John Henry—Black River Giant." This was a program based on the works of white folklorist Roark Bradford (best known for "Green Pastures), and was adapted for radio by the black Puerto Rican actor Juano Hernandez, who also played the lead -- with stage actress Georgia Burke as his leading lady, supported by "an All Negro Cast" drawn from the Lafayette Players of Harlem. The format of the program was very unusual—it was broadcast weekly, in two discontinuous fifteen-minute segments. The first fifteen minutes would establish the plot action for the week—and then the program would go off the air for half an hour, making way for an unrelated program. Then after that program, "John Henry" returned for a second fifteen minutes, which would be devoted to characterization and atmosphere—with special note given to "authentic voodoo lore," according to reviews of the day. Critics loved this program, but ordinary listeners seem to have been baffled by its "arty," non-linear structure, and it ran for eight months without attracting a sponsor. No scripts or recordings have surfaced.

Jack L. Cooper was a very important figure in black radio—he began "The All Colored Hour" (later "The All Negro Hour") over WSBC in 1929. WSBC was a small Chicago station that sold time in blocks to a wide variety of ethnic groups, and Cooper built up a thriving business buying blocks of time and then reselling them to individual South Side sponsors. Cooper himself produced the programs for these sponsors, and they covered a wide range of topics—in addition to "The All Colored Hour," which was a variety show, he did a very close imitation of "Amos 'n' Andy" called "Luke 'n' Timber" (doing all the voices himself), and also worked as a news and feature reporter, a disk jockey, and a comedy ventriloquist. By the end of the 1940s, Cooper was taking out full-page ads in Variety promoting himself as "The Highest Paid Negro in Radio," and he remained active into the early 1960s. A few recordings exist of his later work, but none have ever surfaced of his prime years in the 1930s.

There were a number of locally-originated programs similar to those of Cooper during the 1930s and 1940s. Although at the start of the thirties the African-American radio audience was very small—less than eight per cent of black families owned radios in 1930, according to the U. S. Census Bureau—that audience grew rapidly as the decade wore on, and by the late 1930s, local stations in areas with significant black populations were experimenting with ways of reaching that audience, and black-owned businesses were taking the lead in sponsoring such programs. A hint of the prevailing attitudes can be found in this item from the 1/15/38 issue of Broadcasting:


Despite the theory that white southern listeners resent the inclusion of negro sponsored and negro talent programs, WSGN Birmingham reports the renewal of the 'William Blevins Negro Choir' program, sponsored by the Booker T. Washington Burial Insurance Co., an exclusively negro organization, for 26 weeks. In addition, the program has been increased from 30 to 45 minutes. Henry P. Johnston, director of WSGN, states that not a single letter of complaint has been received from a white listener.

Despite such experiences at the local level, the common attitude in ad agencies thruout the OTR era was that "white audiences," especially in the South, would not support programming which prominently featured black performers, and would be hostile to the sponsors of such programming -- as late as 1964, a serious investigation of the issue by TV Guide could conclude that "sponsors don't think white people will buy their product if a Negro is selling it." This attitude, more than any other factor, seriously limited the development of African-American-oriented programming.


Jews on Radio

Date: Wed, 5 Aug 2009 09:55:29 -0400
From: Donna Halper
Subject: More About Jews on Radio

Re: Radio and the Jews

I think many radio execs felt very ambivalent about broadcasting Jewish programs back in those days. I am sure it has been pointed out that casual anti-Semitism was very much a part of the culture in the 1920s (when schools like Harvard had Jewish quotas and the president of Harvard said in the newspapers that when a school had "too many Jews," the non-Jews wouldn't want to attend) and the 1930s (when famed economist Roger Babson said that anti-Semitism was caused by the "sharp business practices" of Jews and Father Coughlin's anti-Jewish rants got huge radio audiences). On the other hand, from day one, radio stations all over the country had rabbis on the air giving inspirational talks. One of the earliest examples of a synagogue service being broadcast happened in Baltimore way back in 1921. Cities with large Jewish populations had weekly synagogue services broadcast-- in Boston, Rabbi Harry Levi became so popular for his sermons that it was estimated in 1929 that about 20% of his congregation was non-Jews who loved him from hearing him on WNAC. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was a regular on NY radio and sometimes got a network slot as a guest speaker. The same was true of rabbis in Los Angeles and Cleveland.

Some well-known radio executives (Sarnoff, Paley) were nominally Jewish, but felt it best to downplay that fact, given the durable stereotype that the media were controlled by "the Jews." But despite the culture's ambivalence about Jews, a number of local stations in the late 20s and throughout the 30s broadcast programs about Jewish holidays and practices, and some even broadcast Jewish New Year services (usually live from Reform temples). Both NBC and CBS also had weekly shows about Judaism, and yes I do recall reading about broadcasts at Passover time, which discussed the importance of the holiday -- although I don't know if an entire seder was ever put on the air. And of course, there was lots of Yiddish programming in New York, Boston, Philly, and elsewhere, but that was not aimed at a mass audience. It was niche programming that was mainly loved and appreciated by Jewish listeners.

Donna L. Halper, Asst. Professor of Communication
Lesley University, Cambridge MA

Lum 'n' Abner (McLeod)

Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 11:19:23 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: "Lum and Abner"

I assume this would also be part of the reason Lum and Abner switched to the 30 minute format. Is there more to the story? Also, when L & A resumed the serial format, were the shows repeats? Thanks!

"Lum and Abner" was an interesting case—it was in fact the last of the quarter-hour nighttime comedy-drama serials (although it leaned much more to the straight comedy side than A&A had). There were a number of reasons why it managed to endure in this format into 1948, long after everyone else using this format had given it up, but I think the most significant was probably the fact that Miles Laboratories was a sponsor that tended to focus its radio advertising on small-town, rural listeners. The fact that L&A never scored blockbuster ratings in the cities made no difference to Miles Labs, since the series remained quite popular in rural markets. As long as the program delivered these listeners at a reasonable cost, Miles Labs was quite willing to continue it. (I don't know what Lauck and Goff were getting paid by 1948, but I suspect it wasn't in the range of the $1,000,000 a year Correll and Gosden were getting for the last three years of their serial.)

The end of the L&A serial in 1948 and the switch to the half-hour format was largely Chet Lauck's decision—and as the story goes, he was advised against it by both Norris Goff and writer Roswell Rogers, who felt that regardless of current trends, the characters just wouldn't work in a sitcom format. But the change was made—and while the series ran in the half-hour format for two seasons, the change was not a success. One reason may be that one of the most important characters in the serial was the town of Pine Ridge itself—and you never got this same sense of place in the sitcom version. And, as with A&A, the live audience changed the entire mood of the program—and not for the better.

When the program returned in 1953, most of the episodes were revised restagings of scripts from 1941-42. L&A had occasionally recycled old scripts during their Miles Labs series as well—the "movie theatre" storyline from 1943 was only slightly reworked from the original version aired in 1935, the major change being the elimination of Dick Huddleston's prominent on-mike role in the earlier series. (For some reason, the character of Dick rarely appeared on-mike in the Miles Labs era, although he returned without explanation as narrator of the 1953 series.)

In 1945, Lum and Abner took a six week vacation during the summer months. In their place, Chet Lauck exhorted the listeners to tune into their replacements, Pick and Pack. I've never heard of Pick and Pack. Does anyone on the list know them? I'm guessing they didn't go over too well...

Pick Malone and Pat Padgett were old-school blackface comedians—and by old-school I mean the types of comics who went in for crude jokes like "who left a load of coal in the bathtub?" "Dat ain't no load of coal, dat's me!" They had been knocking around radio since the early thirties, and achieved their greatest success on the Maxwell House Show Boat as "Molasses 'n' January"—even though one critic reviewing that program awarded them the title of "Worst Blackface Team In The History Of The World." Their career went into eclipse in the late thirties after Malone was arrested in New York for threatening someone with an unlicensed handgun during a bar fight, but they resurfaced during the war era, and even made a few TV appearances in the late forties. But thruout their careers, their level of humor never advanced much beyond the "load of coal" stage, and they were considered out-of-date even in their own time.

Also, I found on the web somewhere a show starring two L 'n' A clones called. Cy and Elmer It was a really bad (IMHO) program, but I'd like to know if anyone else has heard about it and how it came about.

"The Misadventures of Si and Elmer" was a syndicated comedy-mystery serial written and produced in 1933-34 by a California-based personality by the name of Perry Crandall. Si and Elmer were elderly no-account loafers in the town of "Punkinville" who took a correspondence course in How To Be A Detective and opened their own agency. While Si and Elmer themselves were the epitome of cheesy hick humor, the mystery elements were played almost straight, which gives the series a rather Scooby-Dooish feel.

It's hard to say who, precisely, Si and Elmer were imitating—the basic quarter-hour serial strip format is derived from "Amos 'n' Andy," and the comedy-mystery format owes a lot to an earlier syndicated series called "The Adventures of Black and Blue," which was quite popular in the early thirties. (This series, in turn, might have been inspired by one of the most obnoxious of the A&A imitators, "Honeyboy and Sassafras," which revolved around the title characters' "Black Panther Detective Agency.")

Radio hick characterizations go back further than Lum and Abner - during 1930-31, Phil Lord and Arthur Allen had done "Uncle Abe and David," a serial about two storekeepers from Skowhegan, Maine who moved to New York City. At the same time, Lord was writing "The Stebbins Boys," another Maine-based comedy serial in which Arthur Allen was featured with Parker Fennelly. Fennelly and Allen, in turn, were at the same time featured in "Soconyland Sketches," which went back to 1928. And even further back, beginning in 1927-28, George Frame Brown had created entire towns full of rural types in his "Luke Higgins' Main Street Stories" and "Real Folks" series. Of course, you could suggest all the hick-comedy shows owe a great deal to Cal Stewart and his "Uncle Josh of Punkin Center" phonograph records from the 1900s-1910s, which in turn owe a lot to 19th century "Yankee humor." I know that it can be argued that L 'n' A were a clone of Amos and Andy, just set in the Arkansas hills, but I thought it was an excellent program and think that Messrs. Lauck and Goff are vastly underrated radio performers.

I think Lauck and Goff, of all the A&A imitators, were the only ones to really get it right—and they did so not by being slavish imitations of the original but by giving the format their own distinct twist. There's a good reason why they're still fondly remembered and all the Si and Elmers and Slo and Ezys of the 1930s are forgotten.


Tape Recording for Broadcast (Ross)

Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 22:00:51 -0400
From: "A. Joseph Ross"
Subject: Magnetic tape

I know that ABC allowed Bing Crosby to use magnetic tape circa 1947, but I was wondering when the networks stopped using discs for transcribing and switched to tape. Was it over a long period of time or a relatively short one?

Robert Dwan, who directed "You Bet Your Life" for all of its 14 years, says in his book As Long As They're Laughing that Bing Crosby was allowed to record in 1946, as an exception to the usual rule against recorded programs. Another exception, he says, was "The Bell Telephone Hour of Fine Music, which originated in New York at 8 PM and was recorded for later broadcast out west. John Guedel insisted that if Crosby could record, why not Groucho?

Dwan says that the first season of "You Bet Your Life" was recorded on acetate records, and the editing was very difficult. The following year, Crosby learned of magnetic tape and immediately proposed that ABC buy some tape equipment. Bing's clout being what it was, ABC investigated Ampex, but felt they needed some guarantee of continued production, since Ampex was a tiny company. So Bing sent Ampex an unsolicited check for $50,000 to Ampex. Dwan says that three editing machines were purchased, two for Bing's show and one for Groucho's. That would be the 1948-49 season.

A. Joseph Ross, J.D.

Scopes Trial (McLeod)

Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 11:17:11 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Scopes Recordings?

Speaking of the trial, do any recordings of the WGN broadcasts exist? I'd love to hear some of that.

Unfortunately, none are known. There have been persistent rumors over the years, but nothing has ever emerged to back them up, and given the extreme rarity of any genuine broadcast recordings prior to 1930, I have to say that there is little-to-no chance that these rumors have any substance. Silent newsreel footage does exist, but there is no genuine audio.

For what it's worth, I haven't personally encountered genuine off-air recordings of any WGN broadcasts until 1933—a few supposed ones have turned up from the late twenties, but when investigated they invariably turn out to be misattributed dubs of National Radio Advertising Inc. syndication discs. (Sunny Meadows Program, Maytag Frolic, Bremer-Tully Broadcasters, etc. etc. etc.)


Radio Ratings (McLeod)

Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 18:44:15 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Nielsen and Hooper

In a post about "Fibber McGee & Molly," Eric Cooper appears to make a reference to the A.C. Nielsen Company as a source for radio ratings. I've only known Nielsen to be a television ratings company, and so would be curious to learn more about any dealings Nielsen would have had on the radio side of things.

The Nielsen company began its radio ratings in 1942, in competition with market leader C. E. Hooper Inc. and the sagging Crossley service. Beginning in the 1920s, Arthur Charles Nielsen had been involved in field-survey work for the consumer drug products industry, and later did similar work in the grocery-products field. By the mid-thirties, the Nielsen company was a major force in marketing research.

Nielsen's entry into radio stemmed from his purchase of the rights to a machine invented by an MIT engineer in the late 1930s, which when installed on a radio set kept a running paper log of the time the set was on and the stations to which it was tuned. Nielsen named this device the "Audimeter," and promoted it as a far more efficient method of securing ratings information than the Hooper-Crossley systems built around telephone calls.

Nielsen's radio service was stalled by the war, but in 1947 he began offering serious competition to Hooper (Crossley had folded by this time.) Nielsen publicly challenged the accuracy of Hooperratings, and pushed Hooper into efforts to improve their credibility. This battle raged in the trade press thru 1948 and 1949, and in January 1950, it was announced that C. E. Hooper Inc. was selling its national radio and television ratings service to Nielsen. Hooper kept his regional operations, and experimented with a logging device of his own called the "Hooperrecorder," but Nielsen was clearly the dominant force in ratings from there on. The company discontinued its national radio ratings in 1963, in part because the Audimeter was unable to handle the increased congestion on the radio dial.

Meanwhile, any thoughts of a resurgence for the Hooper company ended tragically in 1954 when Claude Ernest Hooper died in one of the most terrible accidents ever to claim the life of a broadcasting industry figure: while duck hunting, his airboat became lodged on a sandbar, and while trying to push it free, he fell into the unguarded propeller.


Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2004 10:55:28 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Ratings

I ran across two terms I am looking to have clarified. The Hooper ratings and The Crossley ratings. How were these systems used and are there any records of these ratings documented somewhere like a book or library. I found the Crossley ratings term in G. Nachmans book (excellent) and the Hoopers in a couple of others. Thanks

The Crossley service, named for founder Archibald Crossley, was the popular name of the non-profit Cooperative Analysis of Broadcasting, which was the first ratings service to be used by the industry, beginning in early 1930. It was widely used thru the 1930s and into the forties, but was controversial because of its methodology: next-day phone calls to a sampling of the audience in large urban areas. Respondents would be asked to recall the programs they had heard the previous day, which was a system that could easily lead to errors. The C. A. B. was modified slightly in an effort to improve its accuracy, but its credibility slipped as the years went by, and it was discontinued in 1946.

The C. E. Hooper Inc. "Hooperratings" service came into use in 1934, as a for-profit competitor to the Crossley service. Like the Crossley service, Hooperratings were based on phone calls made to sample numbers chosen in large urban areas—but unlike Crossley, Hooper's calls were "coincidental"—asking respondents what program they were hearing *at that moment.* The industry considered Hooperratings a statistically more reliable method for gauging program popularity, and they were used until the Hooper company sold its national operation to A. C. Nielsen Inc. in 1950. Hooper himself was killed in a boating accident in 1954.

The Nielsen company entered the ratings business in 1942 by a side door -- as the inventor of a device called the "Audimeter." This device would be attached to the radio sets owned by families randomly chosen as "Nielsen homes," and would produce a printout logging the stations to which that particular set was tuned at any given time. (The Audimeter began to be supplemented by written diaries in 1955, and such diaries are still used today. I have twice served as a "Nielsen Family.") This method was the only national ratings service to sample rural as well as urban communities, and this is a vital point to consider when discussing ratings: Crossley and Hooper only logged city listeners, meaning the programs popular among the vast number of Americans who lived in small towns and rural areas were *never accurately documented*.

The Trendex system, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, used phone calls in much the same manner as Hooper, but was primarily local in focus -- emphasising a sampling of 29 cities.

Arbitron was founded in 1949 as American Research Bureau, a marketing-research service specializing in local radio—as opposed to the established firms, which focused on network programming. Arbitron also tracks local television, using a diary method in which participants fill in the programming they hear or view for a stated period. (For a while in the 1950s and 1960s, a listener logging device called the "Arbitron" was used to supplement the diaries.)

Ratings information for all of these services was proprietary, and full data was available only to paid subscribers. Occasionally some of the data was published in trade magazines, but the complete surveys were never made available to the general public, and the information remains very difficult to find. The most common sources are industry annuals such as the Variety Radio Directory and the Radio Daily Radio Annual, which presented abridged "ratings leaders" charts; as well as Harrison Summers' "Thirty Year History Of Radio Programs," published in 1956, which presented "sample" ratings information for each season. This data is far from being precise, but it does give a general idea of the relative popularity of programs in any given year.


Amelia Earhart (McLeod)

Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2002 12:27:44 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Earhart Coverage

Amelia Earhart is a name known to me only from history books, but listening to this program it got me to thinking what it must have been like to follow her progress in the newspapers and on radio as it was happening, and the shock of her disappearance.

The story unfolded gradually, with radio in the forefront of coverage. An interesting summary of how radio handled the story can be found in Broadcasting magazine for 7/15/37:


When first news that Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan were lost in the South Pacific was divulged to the world by radio on July 2, stations and networks were quick to offer their services. KGMB, Honolulu, CBS and Mutual outlet, was on the air continuously from 6 am July 3 until 2:15 am July 5 sending out messages to the lost plane.

The Navy and Coast Guard at Honolulu enlisted the station in the hunt because of its ability to send out a strong, clear signal for thousands of miles across the Pacific. The management of the station turned over its facilities to the government agencies aiding in the search and at frequent intervals during the day and night sent messages in voice in the hopes that Miss Earhart would pick up KGMB on her standard longwave receiver with which the plane was equipped in addition to shortwave.

On July 6, CBS broadcast a coast to coast network program of the activities in Honolulu featuring Comdr. William F. Toll in charge of the Coast Guard search, and Lieut. W. W. Harvey of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base who told of his attempt to fly over the area in search of the missing plane. On July 7, MBS presented a similar program outlining the details of the day's search and describing the procedure of KGMB in its attempts to communicate with Miss Earhart.

The plane apparently could send out a carrier wave but could not modulate it. A plan was worked out whereby the carrier wave was to go on for a full minute then it was to be broken four times to indicate that KGMB was being heard. It was hoped that the plane could give its latitude and longitude by breaking the wave once to indicate one, twice to indicate two, and so on. The wave was to be broken twice if the plane was on land, three times if down in the water.

Perhaps the most poignant example of how radio covered the search can be found in, of all places, the 7/5/37 episode of "Amos 'n' Andy," in which Amos and Andy, like millions of others following the flight, sat waiting for the latest news and reflecting sadly on the sacrifices sometimes made for the sake of progress. Space was allowed in the script for an ad-lib discussion of the latest developments, using the latest bulletins from the NBC-Hollywood news room as source material.

Andy---Tell me dis---whut is de latest thing on Amelia Earhart?

Amos---Well, de latest thing I hear is dat (ad lib)

Andy---A fellow was tellin' me on de way oveh heah dat ain't nobody got no bizness flyin' oveh de ocean, an' all dat stuff.

Amos---Somebody gotta blaze de trail. If dey didn't try new things we'd still be goin' cross de country wid a ox-cart."

-- Episode 2621, 7/5/37

Perhaps the best comparison for public reaction would be the death of Will Rogers and Wiley Post in a plane crash two years earlier—a story which received extensive radio play. The memories of that tragedy were still very fresh in the minds of radio listeners, and no doubt there was a deja-vu sort of feeling to the whole experience. To use a latter-day analogy, if the Rogers-Post crash was a "Death-of-JFK" event for the generation of the mid-1930s, the Earhart crash seems to have had a "Death-of-RFK" level of impact.

Unfortunately, little if any of radio's Earhart coverage seems to have been preserved. The NBC collection at the LOC contains none of that network's coverage, nor has the CBS program mentioned in the "Broadcasting" article surfaced anywhere that I know of. The Mutual program may well exist in the WOR collection at the LOC, but much of that material has yet to be catalogued. I don't know if KGMB had recording equipment in place in 1937—or if they did, if any recordings have survived—but Hawaii would seem to be the best place to start searching.


Boxing on Radio (McLeod)

Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 09:14:12 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Boxing on Radio

And as much as I like boxing, I don't recall ever having heard a fight on the radio (New or old).

Boxing was still big on radio into the 1970s. When I was a child, I found Muhammad Ali fascinating from seeing and hearing him on talk shows, and I can recall listening to a number of his more famous bouts on radio.

But boxing's real heyday on radio was the 1930s—given how disreputable the sport seems to have become in our own time, it's hard to imagine just how universally popular it was during the thirties. Boxing on radio reached its peak with the rise of Joe Louis—and in fact, the highest rated single radio broadcast of the entire decade was the second Louis-Schmeling bout of 6/22/38—which according to the Crossley service attracted 63.6 per cent of the radio audience. Considering that there were approximately 27,000,000 radio homes at that time, that works out to a conservative estimate of the total listening audience of more than 68 million people.

Louis' other major bouts of the late thirties attracted similar audiences, but Louis-Schmeling II was the topper, no doubt in part due to the overlaid political significance of a black American taking on an opponent seen as the symbol of Nazi Germany. Even today this is an incredible bout to listen to—Clem McCarthy nearly pops an artery as Louis utterly destroys the German. The buildup to the broadcast is actually longer than the fight itself. Recordings of this bout, as well as a few other Louis fights, are floating around on tape, and might be had from some of the larger dealers.

I might mention in passing that one of the oddest coincidences ever heard on radio involves the second Louis-Schmeling bout. During the weeks leading up to the fight, "Amos 'n' Andy" had been featuring a storyline about boxing, with Andy promoting Flukey Harris in a boxing match against a menacing figure named Sam Blackwood. Correll and Gosden were huge boxing fans who often devoted entire episodes to discussions of Louis' latest bouts, and this storyline was timed so that the Harris-Blackwood bout would take place on 6/21/38, the night before Louis-Schmeling. The bout was scripted to last exactly 2 minutes and 4 seconds. The following evening, Louis dropped Schmeling—in exactly 2 minutes and 4 seconds.

Believe it.....or not.


Synchronizing Cost Too High, Engineers Say

Broadcasting Companies Find System Feasible but Impracticable

This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Dec. 5, 1930.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 - (AP) - Synchronization of broadcasting stations apparently has reached the stage where it is technically feasible but commercially impracticable.

It still costs too much, radio engineers say, to be used generally. In reporting the success of synchronizing tests by WEAF, KDKA and WGY, M. H. Aylesworth, president of the National Broadcasting company, said installation of the system on a national scale would cost upward of $50,000,000.

Engineers of the federal radio commission say that most station owners feel they cannot afford the expense of leasing wires for frequency control. Synchronization by wire is considered by far the most successful of all methods.

The commission considers synchronization about the only remedy for wavelength congestion. It has hoped that groups of stations in various parts of the country could operate simultaneously on the same channel without causing interference, thus making room for more stations.

The commission feels, however, that it does not have the authority to compel stations to synchronize, and therefore will await improvements looking to a reduction of operation cost.

AM Station Bandwidth (McLeod)

From: Elizabeth McLeod (
Subject: Re: Question about low bitrate and cdr players
Date: 2001-12-22 18:12:13 PST

With amplitude modulation (AM) you get sidebands which take up spectrum on either side of the carrier frequency, and the width of the sidebands is equal to the modulation frequency. So if you transmit a 5000 Hz audio signal, you'll be filling up spectrum from your carrier frequency minus 5000 up to carrier plus 5000 Hz. Since allocations in the AM broadcast band are at 10 KHz intervals, you can't allow modulation frequencies greater than 5 kHz without encroaching on the adjacent allocations.

The definition of "Adjacent Allocations" is the key to this. While it's true that the standard broadcast band is divided up into 10 kc channels, they aren't allocated in such a way that you would have a station at, say 990 and 1000 kc next to each other in the same area. This was the reason for the whole concept of dividing station assignments into Class I, II, III, and IV, and the various subdivisions of these classes, all with specific restrictions on power and operating time: to ensure that you didn't have stations overlapping each other. Because of these restrictions, it's unnecessary to impose limits on audio quality (or at least it wasn't necessary in the OTR era....)

There is a long technical discussion of this specific topic in the 4/1/34 issue of Broadcasting by Andrew D. Ring, Broadcast Engineer on the staff of the Federal Radio Commission. He writes (on page 13 of that issue):

At the present time there are no rules and regulations of the Commission limiting the width of the side band transmission, and any broadcast station may be so operated that side bands even up to 10 kilocycles or more are transmitted without violating the terms of the license. The Commission has not promulgated any regulations on the width of the side band for the mere reason that it has not been necessary and no case has been pointed out where interference was due to side bands more than 5 kilocycles from the carrier frequency, though today several stations operate with side bands well over 5 kilocycles.
Ring goes on to point out that the Commission has taken the question of separation into account in assigning frequencies, and if these separation requirements are maintained, there is no reason to limit the upper end of audio response, regardless of the standard 10 kc channel spacing—because interference simply won't be an issue.
In regard to interference from stations on adjacent channels, two 1-kw stations 10 kilocycles removed in frequency will be considered. The separation recommended by the engineering division of the Commission under these circumstances is 200 miles. The effective signal at night from a 1,000-watt station 200 miles distant would be approximately one-half millivolt per meter. Assume that the high-fidelity radio receiving set to be designed has a selectivity such that at 10 kilocycles the undesired intensity must be three times the desired to reproduce the same signal. Then the signal from the undesired station 10 kilocycles removed and 200 miles distant at the 20 millivolt per meter contour of the desired station would be approximately 40 decibels less in intensity. This is approximately the noise level, so that interference from stations with the adjacent channel separation recommended by the engineering division and natural noise would fall at about the same place. This is a very important conclusion and indicates that no wider frequency separation is needed between channels for high fidelity transmission and reception. (p. 40)
In other words, as long as adjacent channels are separated by enough distance to keep the interfering station at or below the natural noise level, there is no audible interference, and thus no limit to practical sideband width. Ring's purpose in writing the article, in fact, was to encourage broadcasters to widen their bandwidths and take advantage of the higher audio quality of modern broadcasting equipment—and to encourage receiver manufacturers to build more sets capable of handling this higher-quality sound.

Because of this, I always understood that AM transmitters were absolutely required to roll off all modulation above 5 kHz

There was never any such FCC or FRC rule. National Radio Systems Committee standards promulgated by the NAB and the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association in the early 1990s specify a sharp rolloff at 10 kc for all current AM stations, and AM equipment sold today tends to top off around 9.5 kc. Interference does tend to be more of a problem, though—because there are far more stations packed into the band than there were in the 1930s. One way of combating this is simply to limit the frequency response on the receiver end—so we have millions of cheap AM radios out there which can't handle anything above 3 kc, and hundreds of AM broadcasters who couldn't care less what their stations sound like.


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