Broadcasting History - Various Articles

Preservation at the Networks (Biel)

Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 14:22:22 -0500
Subject: Censorship and preservation at the nets

Was there any censorship in OTR days?

Boy was there ever! It usually was called "The Office of Standards and Practices"

I have listened to some Bob Hope shows that came close to crossing the line where they might have been censored if there were censors.

The scripts were probably raunchier before the S&P people got to them. And you can clearly hear that some of the routines done for Armed Forces Radio would never have been allowed on NBC, CBS, etc.

It is sad that there are so few Bob Hope shows available to listen to. Was this a NBC policy that caused so few shows to be saved? On the other hand Jack Benny has over 800 shows that were saved ... Another example would be Ozzie and Harriet which was on several years but only has about 58 shows available for MP3s.

I believe it has been mentioned here that just about every Bob Hope program exists. He has just kept tighter control over his own copies, and I suppose the people who raided the NBC NY vaults back in the 50s and 60s copying programs were less interested in Hope than Benny. I also believe that most of the Ozzie and Harriet's exist, but a large percentage of the ones in circulation were ferreted out of the Northwestern University collection. For some reason there was a group of over 23 of them there, while Bob Hope was represented only by the Berlin Airlift show of 12/28/49, the 1st and 3rd daytime 15 minute program of 11/10 and 12/52, and a VFW special of 4/4/49. No Jack Benny at all. Perhaps there were Hope and Benny discs that disappeared from WMAQ before the collection was donated in 1964, but we were never given any finding aids for the collection that would have indicated what had originally existed.

As for NBC's policy on recording and archiving, actually they were not supposed to do it. The advertisers which owned the programs never gave the network the rights to record and/or keep the recordings, but they ended up with several hundred thousand recordings anyway. Performers and advertisers could request that recordings be made, and it is known that Hope, Benny, and Ozzie all maintained their own personal archives, as did many other performers. Ozzie refers to some of his recordings in his autobiography, Benny donated his to UCLA (and got badly hit by the IRS for his troubles), and Hope Enterprises has recently allowed Radio Spirits to make available two collections of his radio programs. I've discussed in the past that the NBC New York collection is heavier on New York originated programs than those from LA, so that is a reason why there happens to be a more complete collection of early Fred Allen programs in it than for Jack Benny. It is also notable that New York usually recorded only the East Coast feed, so the discs from California are more likely to be the source of West Coast feeds. Rarely do you see indications in dealer's catalogs noting which feed the recording is from.

I am curious to know if anyone knows specific instances of where shows were discarded after a certain length of time or recorded over. Andrew Godfrey

Ruth Terry Preston, who was the head of NBC's Central Files in NY from the mid-30s to the early 70s, told me in 1971 that about 50% or more of the NBC discs were discarded about 4 or 5 years earlier. Many were from the post-war period when they delayed 100% of the network feeds for the areas that did not switch to Daylight Saving Time. But I also came across a pack of file cards in a semi-hidden drawer that were for programs that had been recently discarded. These included the soundtracks of thousands of TV game shows which had been recorded for immediate reference if a dispute came up while a program was being aired. Walter Toscanini or Don Gillis told the story on-air once about when they found--and rescued--a large skid of discs in a hallway near a freight elevator and discovered many hundreds of Toscanini rehearsal discs about to be discarded. Ms. Preston also told me that 90% of their TV kinescope film recordings had also been discarded. Buffalo Bob Smith once told me that he had gotten messages that his programs were being discarded but that he could come and take as many as he wanted. He sadly admitted he took less than 20, most of them of special events. Milton Berle was said to have been furious about ten years ago that his programs had been discarded, but he called off his lawsuit when he discovered that, as Ms. Preston had told me, NBC had saved the negative of each of his programs. It is likely that a lot of the discarded kines were duplicate prints--they often needed at least 13 prints of each program to distribute to non-interconnected stations in the early 50s. There are about 50,000 kines in the NBC collection at LC. About 175,000 discs from NBC are at LC.

Michael Biel

Berlin Broadcasts (McLeod)

Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 11:12:11 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: WW2 Berlin Radio

In reading a Feb. 14-20, 1942 "Radio Guide," I find a page on shortwave radio that's fascinating; particularly the listings of broadcasts emanating from Berlin. Lord Haw Haw is listed, and I know who he was, but who were E.D. Ward, Jane Anderson, "Jim & Johnny," Fred Kaltenbach and "O.K Speaks"??

E. D. Ward was a pseudonym for Edward Leopold Delaney, a failed silent-film actor/director/producer/publicist who finally abandoned Hollywood to become an author, penning two obscure novels during the Depression era. During the 1930s, Delaney became active in ultra-right-wing/Coughlinite politics, and it was thru affiliations cultivated in these movements that he was recruited in 1939 by the Reichsrundfunk Overseas Service to present a series of pro-German-from-an-American-perspective broadcasts. Delaney claimed never to have formally espoused Nazi doctrine, however, and constant friction with his supervisors at the RRG led to his departure from Berlin in 1943. He drifted around occupied Europe for two years, and was finally arrested by Allied forces in Prague in May 1945. Investigators finally concluded that he was too small a fry to bother with, and turned him loose in 1947. He spent a number of years touring the US as an ultraconservative lecturer, and finally settled down in Southern California, where he spent the rest of his life as a small-town newspaper columnist. He was killed in a pedestrian accident in 1972 at the age of 86.

Jane Anderson was the well-educated daughter of an old Georgia family who entered journalism in the years before World War 1, and spent several years in Europe covering that conflict for a London newspaper, spending much of her free time engaging in indiscreet affairs with high-ranking diplomats of several nations, despite the fact that she was married at the time to the world-famous American composer/critic Deems Taylor. She and Taylor divorced in 1918, and Anderson spent the next decade trotting the globe, pursuing a career as a correspondent for various magazines, as well as affairs with a number of literary and political figures in the US and across Europe. It was her affair with a Francoite Spanish nobleman in the mid-1930s which brought her under Fascist/Nazi influences, and she became an enthusiastic backer of the cause. She was invited to join the RRG's staff in Berlin in 1940, where she broadcast under the title of "The Georgia Peach." She fell out of favor with the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, however, and was dropped from the broadcasting schedule in 1942. She turned up again after the war, when she and her husband were arrested by Allied authorities in Austria, but she was not prosecuted, and disappeared into postwar Franco Spain never to be heard from again.

Fred W. Kaltenbach was a flat-voiced German-American from Iowa whose aggressively pro-German views dated back to World War 1. He became a high-school history teacher in Dubuque, and during the 1920s, he followed developments in Germany with interest -- becoming a full-blown devotee-from-afar to Nazi ideology even before the rise of Hitler. He was fired from his teaching job in 1933 for attempting to organize a Hitler Youth movement among the boys in his school, and ended up moving to Germany later that year to participate in the Nazi movement firsthand. He was working for the RRG by 1939, and by 1940 was second only to Lord Haw-Haw as a well-known overseas commentator -- eventually earning for himself the title "Lord Hee-Haw," a reference to his midwestern-farmer on-air persona. Kaltenbach was also "Jim" of "Jim and Johnny," a humorous dialogue program in which the title characters traded propaganda-laden quips. Kaltenbach was a hard-line Nazi thru and thru, and broadcast from Berlin for the entire war. He was arrested by Soviet forces in July 1945, and died in a Soviet prison camp in October of that year.

Mister O. K. was Dr. Max Otto Koischwitz, a native German who moved to the US in the early 1920s to pursue his career as a professor of drama and literature. He taught at Hunter College for over a decade -- and at first took a decidedly anti-Nazi view of developments in his native country. But as the 1930s proceeded, Koischwitz's politics shifted -- and even though he took US citizenship in 1938, by 1939, he was openly supporting Hitler and peppering his classroom lectures with anti-Semitic harangues. Hunter put him on a "leave of absence" in the fall of 1939, and he immediately made plans to move to Germany, resigning his position at Hunter in January 1940. By the spring of that year, Koischwitz had landed at the RRG, and was broadcasting propaganda talks to the US as Mister O. K. and also as "Doctor Anders." During his career in Berlin, Koischwitz began an affair with another American, a woman by the name of Mildred Gillars -- who he took under his wing and promoted as a broadcaster, even though she was strongly disliked by superiors in the Propaganda Ministry. Koischwitz broadcast almost for the entire war -- dying of tuberculosis in a Berlin hospital in August 1944.


Election Night Radio (McLeod)

Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 14:36:38 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Election Night

I know I've asked a lot, but, really, just any information on national election broadcasting would be great.

No genuine recordings of Presidential Election Night broadcasts are known to exist prior to 1936. (The commonly-encountered Bob Trout clip "from 1932" is yet another Murrow-Friendly fake recorded in 1950.) The 1936 segments survive as part of the 11/3/36 broadcast of "The Packard Hour," and the stars of the program, Fred Astaire and Charlie Butterworth, devote much of their comedy to election-related jokes. Much is also made by announcer Ken Carpenter of the fact that the Packard Motor Car Company has kindly allowed the National Broadcasting Company to interrupt its broadcast at any time for the latest bulletins.

The news bulletins were assembled by the Press-Radio Bureau, a cooperative formed by the radio networks and the wire services in 1934 to provide limited wire news to broadcasters, and the same raw news material was provided to each network -- the broadcasters did not gather the returns themselves during this era of the Press-Radio Agreement, so there were no "election night exclusives."

The bulletins were read by uncredited staff announcers -- although Graham McNamee is unmistakable as one of the voices giving the 1936 NBC bulletins. (Ted Husing filled a similar role for CBS during this era.) There *were* projections, as prepared by the wire services, but no independent commentary was evident in the bulletins themselves. Commentary heard during the early years of radio election coverage was offered during regular scheduled periods by the likes of Lowell Thomas, Boake Carter, David Lawrence, or H. V. Kaltenborn and not during the actual reporting of the returns.

All this changed during the 1940s, of course -- and Election coverage during the later part of the OTR era was much closer to what we're familiar with today, even down to the commentators working themselves in among the returns. Results were often grouped in five-minute news blocks carved from the ends of regularly-scheduled programs, although bulletins also occurred, and blocks of continuous coverage were heard in the latter part of the evening.

H. V. Kaltenborn gets the "Dewey Defeats Truman" prize for his gaffe in the 1948 election, in which he confidently predicted that there was no way Truman could win -- because all of the big states were going to go Dewey. In a press conference the morning after the election, Truman gleefully ridiculed Kaltenborn's prediction, even down to a very precise imitation of Kaltenborn's voice.


Crosby and Editing (McLeod)

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 12:41:07 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Crosby and Editing

As far as Bing goes, I'm sure he wasn't the first to pre-record his shows for air, but wasn't he the first to EDIT his shows to tighten the timing, cut out the flubs and insert the best takes?

There's some evidence that this sort of editing was being done in syndicated programming as early as 1930 -- an article in the December 1930 issue of Review of Reviews magazine describing the production of the "Chevrolet Chronicles" series by the World Broadcasting System discusses the use of disc-to-disc editing techniques, although it is unclear from the context of the article whether these methods were actually used in the production of the Chronicles series itself or if this was just a general description of editing techniques that were in use at the time. Whatever the specifics, it is clear that these editing techniques were carried over from the motion-picture industry, where during the late 1920s, sound technicians using the Vitaphone sound-on-disc process developed very elaborate systems for extremely precise disc-to-disc editing. Sound technicians at the Warner Brothers studio had by 1930 constructed an impressive editing and sound mixing console that could synchronize up to ten turntables, feeding the output to a disc cutter for production of intermediate and final soundtracks. These turntables were geared to counters, which indexed the number of revolutions of each disc -- providing exact reference points for the material to be edited.

These disc-to-disc editing methods were abandoned by the early thirties, though, as the Vitaphone system fell into obsolescence. However, they were exhumed and refined during the war years by the audio technicians of the Armed Forces Radio Service -- who used disc-to-disc editing to delete commercials and topical material from network shows intended for overseas distribution as well as to edit together the segments of the various AFRS original productions, shows like "Command Performance," "Mail Call," "G. I. Journal," and "Jubilee." All of these shows were edited productions to a greater or lesser extent, and if you listen closely to the original discs, you can often pick up the edit points -- occasionally the technician doing the editing faded up the pot too soon, and the result is a very slight "scoop" as the material being dubbed comes up to speed. This is often evident during audience laughter or applause, with these points most often selected as cutting markers.

Crosby came in contact with these editing methods during the war years, when he was a frequent performer on AFRS shows, and it was this experience which inspired him to bring these methods to his civilian series. He had nothing whatever to do with the development of editing techniques -- he simply took methods that had been developed elsewhere and adopted them for his own use. (As has been discussed before, the first season of "Philco Radio Time" was produced and edited entirely on disc. Tape was not used until the second year of the series.)

Crosby's success with these methods was without question a factor in bringing down the barriers against the use of recordings on NBC, ABC, and CBS -- but those barriers had been eroding for years. Recordings were already being widely used for time-shifting, and had been used for on-the-spot news reporting during the latter years of the war. Their use for mainstream program production was inevitable, and Crosby just happened to be the one who spoke up at the right time.


Cost of Making Recordings (McLeod)

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 12:41:05 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Cost of Making Recordings

Which brings up the question of how much it cost, in the OTR era, to have a transcription disc made of a show?

As of the mid-1930s, the going rate for hiring a contract studio to record a half-hour show averaged $14 for 12" 78rpm uncoated aluminum discs -- a half hour show requiring eight sides of four discs if recorded in its entirety. Most studios offered discounts for quantity orders -- if you were an ad agency or performer ordering an entire series of shows to be recorded, the rate could come down considerably. But $14 per half hour, or $28 an hour, seems to be the average "civilian" price charged during the thirties by studios like Speak-O-Phone, ARS, or Electro-Vox. This is not inexpensive -- $28 was an excellent weekly salary during the mid-thirties. (Of course, most civilians who used recording studios weren't having radio shows airchecked -- they could walk into Speak-O-Phone and make a six-inch record of themselves singing "Come Come I Love You Only" for just fifty cents.)

Aircheck customers could chisel the price down any number of ways -- the most common being to have the studios omit unwanted portions from the program recorded. Commercials or musical numbers would often be left out of comedy programs, for example -- and this could cut a half-hour show down to about seventeen minutes, or four sides of two discs. If you owned a phonograph equipped with a two-speed turntable -- these were available on high-end consoles marketed by RCA Victor, GE and Westinghouse from 1931-35 -- you could have the discs recorded at 33 1/3 rpm to save even more money. A half hour show, with commercials and music omitted, could fit on two sides of a single 12" disc recorded at the slow speed -- and the price for the recording would drop to around $3.50.

I don't have any studio pricing information on hand from the forties -- but blank disc stock wasn't exactly cheap. As of 1946, red-label Audiodisc blanks (the brand most commonly used during the postwar era) cost $3.40 each for the 16" size, $1.85 for 12 inch, or $1.10 for 10 inch. Presto blanks (which were actually better quality, at least from a preservationist's perspective) were slightly less expensive, with the 16" Green Seal type going for $3.25 each. For both brands, quantity discounts were available. Figure in the cost of the blank stock, the labor, overhead, and profit -- and I'd be surprised if the overall price of making a half-hour recording had really changed all that much since the thirties.


Library of Congress Collections (McLeod)

Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 11:08:52 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: OTR at the LOC

Of course, the Library of Congress would be a great place to start, but OTR recordings are so low on their priority list that THEY don't know what half their stuff is.

Well, I don't know as that's a fair statement -- radio recordings are in fact a major priority for the Recorded Sound Reference Center, which is the division of LOC responsible for the collection and documentation of audio materials. It's true that there is a great deal of material in their collection that has not been fully catalogued as yet -- but the work is continuing on an ongoing basis. Consider how many OTR collectors who don't have their catalogues up to date -- I myself have only about ten thousand programs, and am at least two years behind in cataloguing them. The LOC has over half a million programs -- and more being added all the time, so expecting them to have everything instantly catalogued and cross referenced at all times is a bit unrealistic.

Among the collections at LOC --

  • The NBC Collection, 1935-1986. 150,000 transcription discs and 1300 reels of tape covering a cross-section of all genres of programming. Very strong in news and actuality programming, but there is also a lot of entertainment material here, including most of Fred Allen's shows from 1935-40 and 1945-49. Paper documentation is extensive, including original logs of WEAF/WNBC/WRCA from 1925-1955 and of WJZ from 1923-1941. There are also over 2500 reels of microfilm containing the NBC Master Books from 1922-1984, documenting everything that went out over the network during this period, along with an extensive collection of scripts produced by NBC Continuity, hundreds of thousands of press releases from 1924-1989, and the invaluable NBC Artist Record Card Files. If any performer appeared on any NBC program between 1930 and 1960, it is documented in the Artist Record Cards.
  • The WOR Mutual Collection. "Several thousand" discs from the 1930s to the 1950s representing WOR's contributions to MBS along with assorted local programming, along with WOR's paper files.
  • The Office of War Information Collection -- 50,000 discs from 1942-45, containing programs relating in one way or another to the war effort.
  • The AFRS Collection -- 300,000 discs, in both the twelve and sixteen inch formats from the beginning of AFRS to the 1990s.
  • The Columbia University/Brander Matthews Dramatic Library Collection -- Several hundred broadcasts of political speeches and actuality events from 1929-1937, probably the outstanding surviving collection of such early news material.
  • The C. P. MacGregor Collection -- Surviving masters and recording ledgers of the MacGregor and Ingram/MacGregor and Sollie/C. P. MacGregor syndication empire from 1931 thru the 1970s.
  • The Andre Kostalanetz Collection -- Hundreds of broadcasts featuring this musical star from 1932-1960, many of them variety programs featuring other important artists (an interesting group of Stoopnagle and Budd programs are included in this collection.)
  • The Bob Hope Collection -- Hope Enterprises's archive of Hope's broadcasts dating back to 1938.
  • The Goodman Ace Collection -- A near-complete, unedited run of "Easy Aces" broadcasts from February 1935 thru December 1937, along with edited Ziv syndication reissue discs for programs from 1938-1941.
  • The David Goldin Collection -- The disc archives of the founder of Radio Yesteryear, donated to the LOC in the 1980s. Very strong in WOR Mutual and NBC material.
This just scratches the surface -- there are many smaller collections of material from minor performers like Jack Arthur, a forgotten musical-comedy performer whose 1932-35 broadcasts over WOR are preserved by the Library.

The second wing of LOC that maintains radio material is the Manuscript Division -- which holds scripts, both by means of contributions from artists and by means of copyright deposits. Among the high-profile radio materials available in this division are the scripts from the first ten years of "Amos 'n' Andy,"(plus carbon copies of the entire 1926-27 run of "Sam and Henry" have just this summer been unearthed in deep storage at the Copyright Office!), the complete works of Fred Allen from 1932-49, the complete works of Goodman Ace, and selected works by Carlton E. Morse. There's much, much more -- enough so that if you're interested in tracking down script documentation of just about any important series, the LOC should be your first stop.

I also want to put in a good word for the LOC staff. Wynn Matthias and Sam Brylawski at the Recorded Sound Reference Center have been very helpful when I've had a question that needed answering, and the staff in the Manuscript Division has likewise been helpful -- knowing of my interest in all things Correll and Gosden, someone from the Library made a point of letting me know about the exhumation of the "Sam and Henry" scripts this year, a heads-up that was much appreciated. The Library receives more than its share of snide "black hole" remarks from peevish OTR enthusaists who can't understand why the LOC doesn't violate legally-binding agreements with donors by freely distributing recorded materials to anyone who asks for them -- but for those who are serious about OTR research, it is a vital, valuable resource.


Early Advertising (McLeod)

Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 20:14:01 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Early Advertising

The story then goes on to state that "this was the first-ever radio commercial." I find that hard to believe, too. Surely there were East Coast real estate commercials earlier. And I believe the first WHEATIES commercial, the one with the choral group doing an exceedingly slow-tempo version of the famous jingle, goes back approximately this far.

Radio commercials -- in the sense of advertising mentions being made over the air -- go back much further than either Smilin' Ed or WLW. Both Charles Herrold, who operated experimental station SJN in San Jose California beginning in 1909 and Lee deForest, operator of experimental station 2XG in New York, had used barter advertising -- accepting phonograph records from local music stores in exchange for promotional consideration. By 1916, deForest had entered into an exclusive arrangement with the Columbia Graphophone Company in which they would supply him with records in exchange for plugs. While money didn't change hands, the announcements were clearly being made in exchange for value provided, so the genesis of paid advertising is here.

As far as cash money changing hands, there were apparently experiments with time-selling at stations WGI in Massachusetts and KFC in Washington state during the early months of 1922, but the generally accepted starting point is the beginning of "toll broadcasting" by WEAF in the summer of that year, with the Queensboro Corporation, developers of the Hawthorne Court cooperative apartments in Jackson Heights as the first client. The so-called "first commercial" was actually a ten minute talk by a company executive linking the benefits of condominium living with the philosophy of Nathaniel Hawthorn. The "commercial" is painfully indirect, avoiding anything resembling a direct sales pitch, and this emphasis on indirect advertising would remain a hallmark of WEAF thruout the 1920s. It wasn't until 1929, in fact, that actual direct advertising was allowed on nighttime NBC network programs. (The full text of the Queensboro Corporation talk is available at No recordings of this talk exist or were even made -- but there is a recreation in circulation made for a 30th Anniversary broadcast in 1952.

The "Wheaties" jingle has been dated to 1926 by some sources, who claim that it aired over WCCO in Minneapolis during this period. WCCO was owned by the Washburn Crosby Company -- the company that manufactured Wheaties (and which later evolved into General Mills), but I've seen no hard documentation to confirm that the jingle was actually used this early. (Purported 1920s recordings of this jingle have been put out on retrospective LPs over the years, but these are not genuine. No actual, documentable broadcast recordings of the Wheaties jingle exist prior to 1934.)


Early Delayed Broadcasts (McLeod)

Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 13:49:41 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Delayed Broadcasts

I know from reading many FAQ's, articles, etc. that almost all OTR programs were broadcast live. But what happened when a local station was showing say a baseball game? Was their equipment there to record the shows for later airing or were they just prempted?

Although there were experiments with "recorded delay" broadcasting as early as the mid-1920s. it wasn't until the introduction of the lacquer-coated recording disc in 1934 that a broadcast-quality system of instantaneous recording was available. By the end of the 1930s, a growing number of stations had recording equipment on premises, and delayed rebroadcasting of network shows was probably the number-one use for these systems. Daytime serials were the most common programs to be time-shifted, and a pile of discs rarely passes thru my hands that doesn't have at least a few random time-shift recordings of soaps tossed in. Most of these recordings are quick-and-dirty linechecks, with minimal labeling -- either grease pencil written directly on the lacquer, or smudged pencil scrawled on a strip of masking tape seem to be the most popular labeling techniques. Sometimes all you get is a cryptic note like "Tu 330 -- We 145," meaning the program was recorded off the line at 330 on Tuesday for airing at 145 local time on Wednesday. Often, stations would cut two simultaneous recordings of a single program, as protection against a recording problem or disc damage.

These recordings were not made for preservation purposes -- and were usually discarded or recycled once aired. During WW2, and again during the Korean War, there were companies that specialized in boiling the lacquer off used instantaneous discs so as to reclaim the aluminum platters -- usually paying a few cents per pound for such scrap recordings, and most stations rushed to take advantage of these deals since otherwise the discs would be thrown away, given to curious kids, used as oversized skeet-shooting targets, or just tossed into the basement to rot. Often, however, such "delay broadcast" recordings survive because they were cut on the unused back side of discs that were being preserved for some reason. I ran across a pile of discs from Cincinnati last year that included a prime sampling of July/August 1940 vintage soaps, florid stuff like "Orphans of Divorce" and "Girl Alone," which survived only because someone was saving the local programs recorded on the other sides.

The process of delayed rebroadcast was a very important, very common one. Just because most pre-1946 network OTR was produced live, that doesn't mean everyone heard it live.


Networks vs Local Stations

Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 10:39:46 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Incentives and Rebellions

The stations themselves had no say in the matter -- they couldn't choose to carry Red or Blue based on their feel for what the local audience would want to hear.

So what was in these contracts for the stations which induced them to want to affiliate under those conditions? Weren't there any station revolts? Were affiliates really that powerless?

Indeed they were -- and that's what, more than anything, prompted the 1938 FCC hearings which led to the famous 1941 Report On Chain Broadcasting. Networks were using one-sided contracts to act in ways which regulators determined to be Not In The Public Interest in that broadcasters under these agreements were not permitted to fully serve the needs of their communities.

What it all comes down to for the local stations, though, is money. A station could do very well during the thirties as a network affiliate -- they were paid to carry commercial shows, and this was a real incentive, especially for smaller stations that might not be able to sell anywhere near enough local time to cover their expenses. And, the provision for sustaining programs was another incentive -- few stations could provide local shows of the quality offered as network sustainers. Many such stations walked into these contracts with their eyes open -- giving up the flexibility of local control for the security of network affiliation.

There were stations which rebelled against the system. WXYZ in Detroit is a notable example -- it abandoned the security of a CBS affiliation in order to have the flexibility necessary to develop its range of local shows. Had WXYZ remained under the stifling CBS contract, the Trendle family of shows probably never would have existed. (But even Trendle's shows weren't enough to pay WXYZ's bills, and the need for a steadier revenue stream eventually led the station to give up its independence -- and its shortlived association with Mutual -- for a long-term affiliation with NBC as a Basic Blue affiliate.)

The Don Lee stations in California also rebelled against the network status quo. In 1929, William Paley had come to Don Lee hat in hand, desperate for an agreement that would give CBS a west-coast connection, and Lee liked being in the driver's seat. But as CBS became more successful, it began to make increasing demands on the Lee stations -- and neither Don Lee nor his son Tommy, who took over the business following Don's death in 1934, were willing to give CBS the control it wanted. The relationship between the Lee organization and CBS-New York became increasingly hostile during 1934-35, and by early 1936 it was evident that a break was coming, leading CBS to spend the money to buy KNX. At the end of the year, the Don Lee Network and CBS dissolved their relationship, and Tommy Lee immediately affiliated with Mutual -- a move which helped to save that struggling network. Because Mutual was a co-op, and had no time option clauses in its affiliation contracts as of 1936, Lee was able to set his own terms -- and this gave his organization the best of both worlds: local control of programming with the flexibility of a national network when desired. The Lee operation is perhaps the outstanding example in the OTR era (along with the Yankee-Colonial networks in New England) of a regional network that proved you could be profitable while making service to your local audience your primary goal.


First Racially Integrated Show (McLeod)

Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 12:21:45 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: First Integrated Show

and finally, jack benny the first to regularly feature a person of color on his program...

Jack was one of the earliest performers to have an integrated cast, but not the first. In the fall of 1936, about seven months before Eddie Anderson's first appearance on the Benny program, a series called Paducah Plantation premiered over NBC for Oldsmobile. This was a musical-variety series featuring the Southern raconteur Irvin S. Cobb -- with the resonant African-American actor Clarence Muse heading the supporting cast. Muse appeared as a sort of chief-of-staff on Cobb's "plantation," but there was much less stereotyping in this series than one would have expected, given the setting. In addition to Muse, the series featured the Hall Johnson Choir, performing spirituals and other traditional music. Both Ernestine Wade and Jester Hairston -- later to be featured on Amos 'n' Andy -- were members of the choir during this series. (A&A wasn't regularly integrated until Wade joined the series in April 1939, although a black vocal quartet, the Dixie Melody Masters, had performed at Amos and Ruby's wedding in 1935.)

Also worthy of note is the American Revue, a CBS musical variety series of 1933, sponsored by the American Oil Company -- which featured Ethel Waters as one of its headline attractions, along with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra and wise-guy comedian George Beatty. This was a very shortlived series, but at this point, it's the earliest network series I've definitely confirmed as having an integrated cast. Waters didn't appear in dramatic or comic sketches, however -- she was featured solely as a singer.


Father Coughlin (McLeod)

Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 13:54:41 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Coughlin's Popularity

In this past Sunday's Toledo Blade, there was an article about the church of the little flower, which was founded by father Cauglin. In the article it stated that his radio program was one of the most popular shows on the air drawing ten million listners each week. I realize this was probably before any of the rating services (Hooper) but how did this compare with Amos & Andy.

There's actually very little hard information available documenting the size of Coughlin's audience. Most of the statistics which have been quoted over the years were originated by Coughlin's own publicity machine, and cannot be backed up with real evidence.

The first year for which ratings were tracked by the Crossley service, 1930-31, Coughlin was being heard Sunday nights on CBS -- and he didn't even show up on the chart. That year, Amos 'n' Andy led the pack with an average share of 37 per cent of total radio homes, and a peak (in early 1931) of 53.6 per cent. According to figures compiled by Radio Retailing magazine, there were 14 million radio homes in the US in 1931 -- and figuring an average of 4 listeners per home (which was the standard assumption used by the broadcasting industry) that gives A&A an average audience of nearly 21 million people, six nights a week during that season. (The peak A&A audience for 1930-31 works out to over 30 million based on these figures.) Again, Coughlin doesn't even show up on the ratings chart for that year, and this was the only season during which Coughlin was listed among network programs.

The most reliable figures for the size of Coughlin's audience that I can find were extrapolated by author Donald Warren in his 1996 biography Radio Priest. Warren used raw data gathered by Gallup Polls in April and December of 1938 to estimate that Coughlin's audience during this period fell from roughly 16 million to 14.5 million by the end of 1938 -- and his approval rating among his listeners fell from 51 to 46 per cent. For comparison, the most popular network program of 1938, the Chase and Sanborn Hour, scored a season-average Crossley of 42: which, given Radio Retailing's estimate of 28 million radio homes for that year, produces an average audience of over 47 million people every Sunday night.

Coughlin lost much of his national prestige with the embarrassing showing of his Union Party candidate William Lemke in the 1936 presidential election. Coughlin had pledged, on the strength of his radio program, to deliver at least nine million votes for the Union ticket -- but Lemke polled less than 900,000. What this seems to indicate to me is that however large or small Coughlin's overall listening audience was, the number of real, hard-core followers was actually quite small, even at the peak of his national importance.


Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 11:55:19 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Coughlin and Coughlinism

Father Coughlin was Archie Bunker with a Roman collar and a grand oratorical style, rather than any sort of true Nazi.

At the risk of inflaming old passions on this issue, I do think a few comments are in order regarding George's post -- readers should feel free to scroll on past if this is a subject that you'd rather not consider. (I'll try to be as concise as possible!)

As one who has listened carefully to every surviving Coughlin broadcast between 1935 and 1940, and who has read a great deal by Coughlin and about him, I think I can say with some degree of accuracy that Coughlin's political position was far more complicated than "Nazi" or "Not Nazi." Coughlin was an heir to the nineteenth-century free-silver populists -- anti-Big Business, anti-Wall Street, anti-Gold Standard -- and anti-Semitic. He was what was called at the time a "Money Crank," constantly obsessing over the silver-versus-gold backing of circulating currency, and considered the Federal Reserve System to be part of a consipiracy by "International Bankers" -- which was clearly, to anyone who has read populist literature of the early twentieth century, a code word for "Jews."

Coughlin believed -- passionately -- that Jewish interests controlled both "international banking" and "international Communism," arguing that "Jewish bankers" financed the Russian Revolution as part of a vast international conspiracy. These views were outlined in considerable detail in Coughlin's broadcasts thruout the 1938-39 season -- and in fact, Coughlin's most important political and theological influence during this period was a man by the name of Dennis Fahey, a professor of church history at Blackrock College in Dublin, Ireland -- and a man who had acquired a reputation as a rabid anti-Semite, and promoter of conspiratorial theories regarding the influence of "Jewish-Masonic interests" in global affairs. These beliefs deeply influenced Coughlin's own -- he would quote Fahey's writings for the rest of his life -- and were a far more direct influence on his political philosophy than the views of the German Nazi movement. In this sense, it can be said that Coughlin was not a "true Nazi."

However, both Coughlin's anti-Semitism and that of the Nazis spring from a common root -- the spread of anti-Semitic/anti-Masonic conspiracy theories across much of the world around the turn of the twentieth century, which theories contended that "international Jewish interests" and Masons were fomenting a clandestine plot for world domination. This movement reached its peak with the publication of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in 1905 -- and Coughlin accepted this Russian forgery as fact, publishing long extracts from the "Protocols" in "Social Justice" during the summer of 1938, as a precursor to his long series of anti-Semitic broadcasts that would begin that fall.

By 1939, Coughlin's broadcasts were not just anti-Semitic. They were also explicitly pro-German -- he devoted much of his 1/1/39 broadcast to a justification of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, a theme which was reiterated even more vigorously in the broadcast of 3/26/39. In the broadcast of 4/16/39, Coughlin justified German expansionism as a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles, which he described as having "lashed the German people to a pillar of oppression," and contended that the treaty would go down in history as "the most brutal act of aggression ever brought against a civilized people in the history of the world." This pro-German tone continued right thru the summer of 1939 -- coupled with an increasingly anti-British theme. (Coughlin also offered his thoughts on the Spanish Fascist dictator Franco, describing him in the 1/15/39 broadcast as a "Christian humanitarian.") By 1940, Coughlin's broadcasts had taken on such a rabid tone that he had completely alienated the more mainstream elements in the isolationist camp: the America First movement flatly refused to have anything to do with his.

Thruout this period, Coughlin was careful to condemn "Nazism" and to deny being a Nazi sympathizer -- even as he was offering arguments that could have been taken directly from the works of Goebbels. (In fact, there is some evidence that certain of Coughlin's writings in Social Justice during this time were taken, without attribution, from various Goebbels tracts. See chapter 13 of Donald Warren's book and also John Spivak's 1940 study "The Shrine of the Silver Dollar" for a discussion of this.) There's never been any evidence -- or any serious suggestion -- that Coughlin was a card-carrying, Hitler-heiling member of the NSDAP. But a careful examination of Coughlin's own views, his own writings, and his own broadcasts, makes it pretty clear that Coughlin and the Nazis were, in many respects, singing out of the same hymnal.

I'd much rather be talking about Amos 'n' Andy or Fred Allen or Eddie Cantor -- so I'll try to avoid posting any more about this subject. But in a time when Coughlin's writings are being re-discovered by modern-day fringe movements, and old, old conspiracy theories are being given new life on the internet, I think it's important to be frank and open about discussing Coughlin and what he actually stood for, based on his own words. He was, for better or worse, a major figure in the OTR era -- and it's important that we not ignore him -- or whitewash him.


Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 18:45:01 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Coughlin's Network

I recently acquired a CD of MP3s of some of Fr. Charles Coughlin's broadcasts, airchecked from WHBI. (Interestingly, an announcement on the earliest broadcast on the CD states that WINS New York had cancelled its contract to carry Coughlin's program the previous week.

Coughlin also lost WMCA as a result of his broadcast of 11/20/38 (if your MP3s are like most of the circulating tape copies of this program, the 11/20, 11/27, and 12/4 broadcasts are all botched up. Many circulating copies of 11/20 are actually the first half of 12/4 coupled with the last half of 11/27.)

WOR had dropped Coughlin at the close of the 1937-38 season, and was glad to be rid of him -- they'd been looking for an excuse to drop the program, but as long as Coughlin continued to broadcast without a summer break, they didn't feel they could contractually cancel him. But when he broke for the summer in 1938, WOR immediately imposed a policy of refusing to sell local commercial time for "religious" broadcasts. (This policy wasn't strictly enforced though -- Charles E. Fuller's Old Fashioned Revival Hour program continued to buy time on WOR thru Mutual for many years.) With all the major independents in New York refusing to sell Coughlin time, tiny little WHBI was the only station in the New York market he could get. After the cancellations, there were protests by Coughlinites in front of both WMCA and WINS, leading to occasional violence between these picketers and counter-picketers.

In addition to losing WMCA as a result of the 11/20 program, WDAS in Philadelpha and WJJD-WIND Chicago also cancelled the series in the wake of the controversy (and the only Chicago-market station Coughlin could get from then on was WHIP in Hammond, Indiana.) Each of these stations explained that they would carry future broadcasts only if Coughlin submitted a full text of his speech in advance, but this led to a considerable debate over censorship in radio, and there is quite a bit of interesting reading on this subject in both the civilian and trade press during the winter of 1938. Meanwhile, Coughlin's 11/20 address was officially repudiated by the Archbishop of Chicago in a nationally-broadcast statement over NBC. Following this rebuke, Catholic leaders nationwide rushed to distance themselves from Coughlin's comments, stressing that his political comments did not have official ecclesiastical approval, and that he was delivering them as a private citizen and not as a priest. Does anyone have a listing of Coughlin's affiliates and the dates they carried him?)

Coughlin packaged a series of private networks beginning in 1932, after CBS adopted its policy of refusing to sell religious time. (NBC had had such a policy since 1927, following a controversial broadcast by Judge Rutherford of the Watch Tower Society.) WJR, Detroit was always the key station for Coughlin's network -- its owner, George Richards, seems to have been very much in sympathy with Coughlin's political views, and in the 1940s got into deep trouble with the FCC for repeatedly ordering his newscasters to slant the news to reflect his own political attitudes.

There were 16 stations on the hookup in 1932, with WOR the New York outlet. The network extended as far west as Kansas City, but I don't have a full list of affiliates. During 1938, Coughlin was using WJR, WKBW Buffalo, WPG Atlantic City, WMCA New York, WCKY Cincinnati, WSYR Syracuse, WGAR Cleveland, KSTP St. Paul, WCAO Baltimore, WJAS Pittsburgh, WFIL Philadelphia and affiliates on the Quaker State Network, and WAAB Boston and affiliates on the Colonial Network.

What other programs did WHBI broadcast?

Mostly brokered political and religious programs, advertising transcriptions, phonograph records, and occasional live-singer-and-piano music programs. It was about as smalltime as a station could get in 1939.


Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 21:52:08 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Coughlin Formats

Did Coughlin syndicate his one-hour shows in a 30 minute format to fit some time slots or did he do two separate broadcasts? What's going on here?

For most of his years on the air, Coughlin worked in an hour-long format -- sandwiching his politico-economic lectures between organ solos and recorded choir music. However, following his return from the self-imposed exile he had declared after the humiliation of his Union Party candidate William Lemke in the 1936 presidential election, Coughlin did broadcast twice each Sunday in an effort to maximize his reach. This wasn't quite a case of time-zone accomodation - one broadcast was his regular hour-long format and the other, usually two or three hours later, was a half-hour.

Stations did not pay for Coughlin's broadcasts, nor was time donated. Coughlin's organization, the National Union For Social Justice, bought the time at full commercial rate-card rates, and the most likely explanation for the two-broadcast format was that some stations Coughlin dearly wanted on his network didn't have an hour-long slot on Sunday available for him to buy. Coughlin's agency, AirCasters Inc. of Detroit, had to negoitate individually with every station on the hookup, and no doubt a lot of juggling had to be done to ensure the program's presence in every key market -- especially after major stations began refusing to sell Coughlin time in the wake of his increasingly anti-Semitic subject matter during 1938-39.

Some religious broadcasters of the 1930s, notably Judge J. F. Rutherford of the Watch Tower Society and Charles E. Fuller of the "Old Fashioned Revival Hour," successfully used recorded syndication to ensure maximum penetration for their broadcasts -- but this wouldn't have worked for Coughlin since his talks were often built around themes taken from the news of the previous week. Nationwide deployment of a transcription series generally required a lead time of at least two weeks to allow for the processing and shipment of the discs -- and Coughlin's material would have been quite stale had he chosen to use recordings. Multiple live broadcasts therefore became Coughlin's only real option.

It's probable that the half-hour programs were condensations of the hour broadcasts -- eliminating the music fill and tightening up Coughlin's speeches.


Ratings Services (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 16:04:42 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Ratings Services

I'm curious about the ratings services that existed in the radio era. I've heard of Crossley, and I've also heard of Hooper. At some point, by the time we got to the TV era, it was Neilson, and for awhile there was also Trendex. And now there is Arbitron. Are the present ratings services outgrowths of the earlier ones, or did new services arise to supplant the earlier ones?

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. 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.

Nielsen had 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.) 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: they 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.)

I once took part in an Arbitron television survey (which I technically shouldn't have done, since I was working in broadcasting at the time -- but I wanted to see how it worked first hand). I was sent a small booklet in which to log my viewing -- along with fifty cents wrapped in cellophane as a token payment for my services. I can't say I had much influence on the survey -- all the programs I watched that week were cancelled before the end of the season.


Liberty Network (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2000 12:30:24 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Liberty Broadcasting System

Many new programs will be heard over WIEL though the Liberty Network." What type programs did they run? Mutual was supposed to be the largest in those days but I never heard of Liberty.

Liberty was the brainchild of Texas radio entrepreneur Gordon McLendon, evolving from a series of recreated baseball broadcasts heard regionally in 1948, and began full-scale network operations in October 1950. McLendon's KLIF in Dallas was the flagship, and the network quickly built a base of stations concentrated in the South and Southwest, and portions of the West and Midwest. Most of the stations in the network were relatively small, but occasionally larger outlets like KMPC in Los Angeles and WCFL, Chicago were involved.

While the Liberty Game Of The Day was the primary attraction, the network did offer a schedule of news and feature programs. Altogether, the Liberty schedule filled ten hours daily, and while some rather talented people worked for the network, such as newsman Frank Blair and sportscaster Lindsey Nelson, they were never in the same ballpark (so to speak) as the Major Networks, and never attracted any major stars. The only thing the network really had to offer was Game Of The Day.

By 1951, Liberty's Game of the Day recreations had become fantastically popular in areas where there was no access to local big-league broadcasts, and attracted national sponsorship from Falstaff Brewing. Unfortunately for McLendon, the broadcasts also attracted the attention of the Office Of The Baseball Commissioner. Baseball had already made its own arrangements with Mutual for a live series of Game Of The Day broadcasts, and saw McLendon as an illegal interloper.

While McLendon preferred to view himself as a sharp operator, he was in fact little more than a pirate, since his baseball broadcasts were presented without any legal authorization from the teams or the Commissioner's Office, and with rare exceptions, the network paid no royalties or licensing fees. Pressure from Organized Baseball forced Western Union to revoke Liberty's access to the baseball wire -- and without Game Of The Day, McLendon knew his network was doomed. In an attempt to stay alive, McLendon filed a $14 million lawsuit against Baseball in February 1952, but he lost. The legal expenses and the loss of revenue piled up -- and in May of 1952, Liberty went silent for good.

McLendon, however, bounced back -- he went on to become a prime mover in the creation of "Top Forty" radio, and is considered a pioneer in the development of modern radio format theory.


African-American Radio Pioneers (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000 10:51:21 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: African-American Radio Pioneers

But the real reason for this letter is to enquire how early the first Afro-American performers appeared on radio, integrated or not. Jazz musicologists inform me that both Ethel Waters and Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra had appeared (separately) on radio by 1922, but I have no other details.

There are mentions of the jazz pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines making an appearance over KDKA, Pittsburgh as early as 1921, but this may not have been the first instance of a black performer on radio -- defining "firsts" in the earliest days of radio is a very risky proposition, because there's so little solid documentation available. I've seen the Waters-Henderson joint appearance over WGV New Orleans dated 1921 or 1922 -- although WGV wasn't licensed until March of '22, the appearance could have taken place over an experimental transmitter prior to the granting of the license.

Also in 1922, newspaperman Jack L. Cooper made his radio debut over WCAP in Washington DC as a "one man minstrel show." Cooper went on to become a towering figure in African-American broadcasting -- appearing as an actor, a master-of-ceremonies, a comedian, a newscaster, a sportscaster, and a disc-jockey on various Chicago stations until 1961. He wrote, produced, directed and sold advertising for all of his various shows, and eventually established Jack L. Cooper Radio Productions Inc. By the 1940s, Cooper was taking out ads in Variety proudly promoting himself as "The Highest Paid Negro In Radio."

I've also seen mentions of Bert Williams, the legendary Ziegfield star, making at least one broadcast in 1921, possibly in connection with his role in the Broadway revue "Shuffle Along," but I've not seen any documentation for this. Williams died in early 1922 -- had he lived longer, he undoubtedly would have been a significant figure in broadcasting. (And, for that matter, one of the real tragedies of show business is that the great black vaudeville monologuist Charley Case didn't live long enough to appear on radio -- the phonograph records he made for Victor in the 'teens remind the listener of Fred Allen, and his distinctive style -- emphasising humorous understatement and unexpected wordplay -- was well-known-enough to have influenced Allen's own. Praised by critics as one of the most original performers ever to appear in vaudeville, Case shot himself in 1916.)

Duke Ellington was involved in radio very early on -- his orchestra was being heard regularly over WHN in remote broadcasts from the Cotton Club as early as 1924, and these were probably the first regularly-scheduled broadcasts by African-American performers in New York.

Ellington's remotes were being heard regularly over CBS by 1929, but the first non-musician black performers to have a network series seem to have been the comedy team of Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, who had a brief run over CBS in 1931-32. Miller and Lyles had a career in vaudeville dating back to the turn of the century, emphasising traditional blackface material -- and this may have been their biggest weakness. Although CBS clearly hoped they would offer stiff competition to "Amos 'n' Andy," the series failed -- most likely because A&A's appeal had less to do with "blackface comedy" than it did with the attraction of a continuing serial story. Miller and Lyles, by contrast, offered minstrel-style jokes and routines -- with little to really set them apart from the army of white blackface comics then on the air.

Flournoy Miller had a long relationship with Gosden and Correll -- in 1930, he sued the team for plagiarism, claiming the "mulsifyin' an' revidin'" routine they had performed on stage during their Pantages vaudeville tour in 1929 was lifted from material he and Lyles had originated. This dispute was resolved, however -- and years later, in 1949, Miller was hired by Gosden as a contributing writer and comedy consultant. The much broader comic approach taken by A&A during the early fifties owes much to Miller's own comic sensibility, and it was Miller who recommended Tim Moore for the role of the Kingfish in the A&A TV series. Miller had also worked closely with Johnny "Calhoun" Lee -- the two had teamed on stage during the 1940s after the death of Aubrey Lyles.


Network Option Time (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2000 11:57:51 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: Time Optioning and Split Networks

Would someone please clarify "option time" as used in the old NBC, CBS contracts. From what I have read it would appear that a station would option certain time periods to a network (like NBC)

Time optioning basically gave the network first refusal on a specified portion of the broadcast day. The practice originated with United Independent Broadcasters, the precursor to CBS, in 1927 -- with affiliation contracts under which UIB agreed to pay for a minimum of ten hours a week at a rate of $50 per hour from each of its sixteen affiliates, and took an option on an additional 20 hours each week -- meaning the station couldn't sell that time to any local sponsor without clearing it first with the network.

A revised CBS affiliation contract, adopted in August of 1929, gave CBS a complete option on the affiliate's entire broadcast day for the placement of commercial programs. This meant, in effect, that the station had ceded the total control of its schedule to the network. Local programs could be placed only when they would not conflict with the announced commercial schedule of the network, unless the local program could be shown to be "in the public interest and necessity." While Columbia didn't, in practice, fill an entire station's broadcast day with its commercial programming, under this contract it had the RIGHT to do so, and did dominate the most important hours of the broadcasting day. Many affiliates resented this loss of control -- most notably the Don Lee stations in California -- and CBS was essentially throwing them a bone by allowing free use of sustaining programs during non-sponsored periods. Nevertheless, the Don Lee stations continued to chafe under CBS control, and finally dissolved their relationship with Columbia in 1936.

As the FCC began to take a skeptical look at such domineering practices by networks, CBS amended its standard contract in 1937. Under the amended version, CBS was required to give affiliates 28 days notice of its intent to exercise its option on station time -- a requirement fulfilled by the publication of an "Advance Program Information" newsletter for affiliates. And, station's would not be required to broadcast network programs for more than 50 "converted hours" per week, a "converted hour" being defined as one evening hour, two daytime hours, or two thirds of a Sunday afternoon hour. 50 "converted" hours amounts to about 79 real-time hours, an amount of time that CBS had never actually required of any station in any one week.

NBC's time option policy was less aggressive than that of CBS, and wasn't adopted until 1933. Under the 1933 contract, the hours of 10 am to noon, 3 to 6 pm, 7 to 730 pm and 8 to 11 pm were specified as "network option time" (with a slightly different schedule in effect on Sundays), and allowed the network to control these hours on 28 days notice (again, an Advance Program Service newsletter to affiliates fulfilled this requirement.) This policy applied to all stations from New York west to Denver. West of Denver, NBC took a full option on the time of its affiliates in order to compensate for the time differential (some New York programs would otherwise have aired outside of option time on the West Coast.)

The station manager shared the fact that NBC threatened to transfer the station's affiliation to its BLUE network if the station was not more cooperative. I wonder if NBC used this threat often?

They usually didn't have to -- although the contracts were worded in such a way as to make it extremely easy if NBC wanted to make this shift. There were two classes of NBC affiliates -- Basic and Supplemental. The Basic stations were always either Red or Blue -- and as of 1938, there were only 23 Basic Red stations and 24 Basic Blue. The remaining 107 NBC stations could be either Red or Blue depending on the specific needs of a given sponsor -- or the whims of the New York office. The stations themselves had no say in the matter -- they couldn't choose to carry Red or Blue based on their feel for what the local audience would want to hear.

I assume the sponsor was sold by region rather than being able to pick individual affiliates scattered throughout.

There were blocks of stations that were usually sold together -- a sponsor would buy Basic Red or Basic Blue, which covered New England to Omaha, and north of the Mason-Dixon line. Southeastern, Southwestern, and West Coast stations were sold in blocks which could be added in depending on the marketing plan of the sponsor. There was some a-la-carte involved -- a sponsor with a product that had an erratic distribution pattern might negotiate a network that was cut to fit its distribution area: for example, when Esso sponsored the Marx Brothers' "Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel" in 1932-33, the program was carried over a Blue network that extended from Massachusetts to South Carolina, as far west as Pennsylvania, and also into Arkansas and Louisiana -- these being the territories where Standard Oil of New Jersey and its affiliates were permitted to market under the Esso trademark. Other Blue stations outside this zone received alternative programming -- this was called a "split network."

If the latter was true NBCs sustaining service to stations non-sponsored would be far too confusing.

In addition to Red and Blue programming, NBC also offered generic sustaining features to Supplemental stations that weren't being used for specific Red or Blue programming at a given time -- these programs were neither Red nor Blue. So even though NBC was running two networks, they might at times be simultaneously originating three or more individual programs (more when you count the West Coast as a separate operation.) The sort of uniform coast-to-coast network scheduling that we see today in television did not exist for most of the OTR era.


Blacklisting (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2000 12:01:00 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: The Blacklist and Postwar Competition

I seem to remember (vaguely) that several years ago it was posted in the OTR Forum that the blacklist proponents were not all driven by political ideals but used the blacklist to eliminate competition for their jobs, competition which increased dramatically as former radio and film personalities returned from the war.

The "competition" factor is one which has been mentioned as one possible motivation for blacklisting -- but it's only a theory, and there are solid reasons for doubting it.

I have in my files a complete list of every New York AFRA member who served in World War II, and of the names appearing on this list, only five performers -- Lee J. Cobb, Leon Janney, Burgess Meredith, Henry Morgan and Sam Wanamaker -- ended up being listed in Red Channels, which was published a full five years after the close of the war. In fact, most of the radio people who were listed in Red Channels never served in WW2 at all -- they were either overaged or female.

Now, granted -- Red Channels was just the leading edge of the blacklist movement, and what was true in New York may not have been equally true in Hollywood. But given that New York AFRA was the hardest-fought-battleground of the whole blacklist era, the fact that so few returning vets ended up on the blacklist there seems to be very convincing evidence against the "just out to eliminate competition" explanation, as does the fact that the blacklist movement itself really didn't get off the ground until five years after most of the vets had already come home. The most reasonable conclusion is that the true explanations lie elsewhere.

Bud Collyer was mentioned as one of those who was an active participant in eliminating competition via active supporting of the blacklisting.

Collyer's role in blacklisting is rather poignant -- he was by all accounts a sincere man who didn't so much actively lead the charge for blacklisting as he did stand by and allow the hardliners to take over the union because he honestly believed that something had to be done to stop "communist infiltration." There may very well have been cynical opportunists in the blacklist movement -- but I've never seen any evidence to indicate Collyer was one of them. He felt bad about what was being done -- but he felt it had to be done. (And, I can't resist suggesting, that's the most dangerous sort of attitude of all: "This is going to hurt me a lot more than it's going to hurt you.")

Ned Wever and Vinton Hayworth were the real hard-line supporters of blacklisting at New York AFRA, and in fact served as "inside sources" of information for the blacklist custodians at Aware Incorporated. Rita Morley Harvey's well-documented book Those Wonderful, Terrible Years gives an inside account of the crisis that resulted, and is a must-read for anyone interested in this period. Much of her source material for the book came direct from NY-AFRA files.


The Glass Curtain (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 11:38:03 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: The Glass Curtain

What was meant by the term "glass curtain" in radio. I have heard that term used when live audiences were present.

The "glass curtain" was originally a very large soundproof glass window installed by NBC in the rooftop auditorium of the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York when the network leased that facility in 1929 to accommodate large-scale programs that wouldn't fit the regular NBC studios at 711 5th Avenue. This window was on a roller track so that it could be raised or lowered at will -- but it was usually kept lowered, to prevent audience sounds from interfering with the broadcast. Audience members heard the program thru loudspeakers.

Contrary to popular belief, live audiences were quite common in radio by 1929 -- and they weren't always silent. The Hank Simmons Showboat program, heard over CBS from 1929 thru 1931 made its live audience part of the program -- encouraging them to laugh, applaud, and hiss the villain in the program's melodramas. NBC took a stodgier view -- audiences were accommodated, but were encouraged to keep quiet. The glass curtain was a way of enforcing this rule. Eddie Cantor, in the fall of 1931, is believed to be the first NBC performer to insist on the curtain being raised for his broadcasts. Ed Wynn, who also broadcast from the New Amsterdam, followed his lead when the Fire Chief Program began in April 1932 -- but neither of these performers were the first to encourage audience response, since as noted above CBS had been doing allowing audience response over the air for at least two years prior to Cantor.

Despite the trend to audible-audience shows, at least one glass curtain was to be installed at Radio City, which opened in 1933, and some performers continued to prefer a silent audience. Bing Crosby, for one, preferred to work without a studio audience -- and when Kraft insisted he have one, he agreed only on the condition that they not be allowed to applaud. Laughter was acceptable -- but no clapping.


John Cameron Swayze (Elizabeth McLeod)

Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 11:13:58 -0400 From: Elizabeth McLeod
Subject: Re: John Cameron Swayze

i recently inquired about john cameron swayzey : what was his role on radio, if any, why did he leave tv newscaster job on nbc or why was he ousted . i remember him as the first network newscaster and he was a GIANT in the business in the late forties-early fifties. my post got no responses. was it deleted for some reason or just no information or interest? just wondering----

Swayze was never a major figure in radio news, although he did appear on NBC's Monitor in the 1950s in addition to his TV work. His radio career began over KMBC in Kansas City in 1930, announcing news bulletins for the Kansas City Journal-Post. Swayze was actually employed by the newspaper, not the radio station, and continued to work on this basis for a decade, finally joining KMBC full time in 1940. It was during the 1930s that he made his first connection with television -- hosting a newscast three days a week over experimental television station W9XAL, operated by the First National Television Company.

In 1944, Swayze left Kansas City to seek his fortune in Hollywood -- where he found a copy-editing job at NBC. In 1947, he was transferred to New York. He continued to work behind-the-scene, but eventually got a chance to work on-air again, creating a quiz show called Who Said That? on which he was heard as a panelist.

While a member of the NBC New York staff, Swayze was selected to host a twice-weekly fifteen minute news program over television station WNBT -- and was apparently chosen for his looks more than anything else: he once recalled in an interview that the "audition" consisted of the several candidates sitting silently in a row while the producers looked them over. This was by no means NBC's first venture into television news: Swayze's program replaced NBC Telenews, a compendium of MGM-Hearst newsreel footage assembled and hosted by Hearst producer Paul Alley, which had been seen over WNBT since the war era. (And, as far back as 1941, Lowell Thomas's nightly broadcasts for Sun Oil had been simulcast over WNBT, complete with a Blue Sunoco gasoline pump globe displayed over Thomas's shoulder for "visual appeal") It was the expiration of Hearst's contract with NBC that led to Alley's departure -- the Hearst Telenews package was immediately picked up by CBS, and NBC signed a deal with Fox Movietone News for film footage that would last well into the 1950s.

The Swayze program was picked up by R. J. Reynolds in February 1948, and became the Camel News Caravan, eventually expanding to a nightly schedule, to compete with Douglas Edwards' nightly telecast for Gulf Oil on CBS. (And, again, mythology to the contrary, Edwards wasn't the first regular CBS television newscaster. In the spring of 1941, the CBS-New York television station WCBW was presenting Richard Hubbell and the News on a twice-weekly basis. Hubbell had no sponsor, and his visual aids were more impressive than Thomas's -- he stood in front of a large wall map of the world, using a pointer to indicate global hot spots.)

Swayze's departure from the News Caravan (which was by this time alternately sponsored by Camels and by Plymouth) resulted from the teaming of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley during NBC-TV's coverage of the 1956 political conventions. The two broadcasters had a distinctive personal chemistry that was quite unlike anything that had ever been seen in television news, and as soon as the conventions ended, NBC executives took steps to ensure that the teaming would be a permanent one -- Swayze's ratings were slipping anyway, and the trite "newsreel" style of News Caravan was looking increasingly old-hat next to CBS's no-nonsense format. So it was that in the fall of 1956, The Huntley-Brinkley Report took over Swayze's old slot, beginning a run that would continue into 1970.

Swayze, of course, went on to enjoy a lengthy career as a commercial pitchman, and also worked for ABC Radio News in the 1960s. His son Cameron Swayze spent many years at NBC radio, particularly as one of the anchors of the short-lived but excellent "NBC News and Information Service" package in 1975-76, and is still active in broadcasting at WCBS in New York.


Return to front page