Wednesday, 28 January 2015

CBS is Here

Radio in the middle part of the 1920s wasn’t much like the Golden Days of Radio that we think of today. There was no Jack Benny, no Ma Perkins, no Lux Radio Theatre. Radio stations broadcast shows with local musicians and singers, sports scores and news headlines. Even the correct time was a part of the broadcast day (and advertised in radio listings of newspapers). Some stations hooked up together to jointly broadcast special programming. Newspaper stories talk about the “WEAF network,” an occasional, ad-hoc thing. Eventually, that morphed into the creation of NBC in 1926, which was able to attract big-name talent by selling programme sponsorships.

A second network was created out of spite. NBC wouldn’t make a deal with a talent broker named Arthur Judson, so he helped set up United Independent Broadcasters which went on the air on September 18, 1927. By then it had assumed a new name thanks to a deal which sold the network’s operating rights to Columbia Phonograph.

Interestingly, the radio section of the Brooklyn Eagle that day devoted more space to an even bigger hook-up than the 16-station CBS debut. It was a six-hour broadcast from the Radio Industries Banquet to take place three days later, aired on NBC, CBS and the Atlantic Broadcasting Corporation (WABC New York), 80 stations in all, and included Mack and Moran, the Happiness Boys and Van and Schenk among the acts. You can see the Eagle’s preview story to the right.

So, how did the CBS debut go? Lewis Paper’s book Empire details dead air on some of the affiliates. The programming was heard loud and clear in New York, though the Eagle’s radio editor, the pseudononymous “L-S-N-R,” gave his review in the next day’s paper.

DEEMS TAYLOR acted as "interpreter" for his own opera, "The King's Henchman," that was the big feature of the opening program of the Columbia Broadcasting Company, which started business last evening, scattering melody and other things, through the ether, from two dozen stations, located between New York and St. Louis.
Mr. Taylor, we want to say right at the start, is one of the very best announcers—beg pardon—interpreters we have ever heard. Although he is the composer of a really great musical work, he "interpreted" or described it, and outlined, its plot, in the most delightful, human, unhighbrow manner imaginable.
It sounded almost as if a Bay Shore commuter, who had been to the Metropolitan Opera House, was describing the opera to a commuter from Patchogue, which is meant to convey the news that Mr. Taylor used every-day words, and an offhand, every-day manner, Mr. Taylor was introduced to the invisible audience by Maj. Andrew J. White, who acted as a sort of master of ceremonies. It was Mr. Taylor's aerial debut, and we congratulate him, not only on the successful broadcasting of his opera, but on his manner of letting us know what it was all about.
The debut into the ether of the Columbia Broadcasting Company was marred by too much advertising. Commercialism stuck out at every possible point. We have become hardened to the ad idea in radio, but it remained for this new concern to make it genuinely annoying.
We were reminded over and over again by a man with a very ponderous, slow delivery, of the identity of the owners of the company, the concern that was responsible for the hiring of the "facilities," and all the rest of it, so that it became very tiresome.
This was especially the case after Mr. Taylor's opera was over, and the "facilities" were taken over by a concern that manufactures various medicines and beverages. The musicians and singers were given trade names, and the frequent tiresome repetition of the names of the commodities took a great deal of the pleasure from listening to some really good music and singing.
The broadcasting itself, done through the new equipment set up at Kearney, N. J., by Station W O R, was very fine, indeed, and when the man with the slow, ponderous delivery was silent, everything was very much O. K.
The principal roles in "The King's Henchman" were admirably sung by Marie Sundelius, Giovanni Martino and Rafael Diaz, and the orchestral and choral effects were splendid.
A young woman who sang "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny" between the ads displayed a very fine voice and a remarkably clear enunciation, with an especially fine regard for the much-abused letter "r."
An announcement of special interest to the S. F. D. (Soda Fountain Dispensers) fraternity was made between songs, and we have no doubt all the sundae specialists in the U. S. A. will soon be as busy with their fountain pens as with their fountain faucets, grinding out literary effusions, so as to be in line for cash prizes, and the honor of being crowned "K.D." (King Dispenser).
One of the announcements made by the man with the slow-motion delivery, concerned the singings of the "Street Song" from" "Naughty Marietta." He took elaborate pains to preface the name of the song with the ad stuff, but forgot all about the late Victor Herbert, the composer of the song.

Seas of red ink became oceans of red ink. Columbia Phonograph pulled out. Finally, a new company president was elected in September 1928. He was 26-year-old Bill Paley. The affiliate contract was revamped and Paley started signing up more stations, jettisoning WOR along the way. The network prepared for a relaunch broadcast. Here’s a feature column by the National Enterprise Association. It may seem odd the science editor would be doing a radio story but during much of the ‘20s, the radio pages of newspapers were filled with technical data about tubes, transmitters and propagation for the hobbyist. As networks grew, the focus of radio stories changed to programming. This appeared in papers on January 5, 1929.

Columbia Broadcasting System Has Speedy Growth

Science Editor, NEA Service
NEW YORK, Jan. 5.—The high spot appearing in the spread of the Columbia Broadcasting System to the Pacific and the gulf coasts, may in the minds of some, be the prolonged “gala” program that has been prepared for this event on the night of Jan. 8.
But the real high spot, to those back of the scenes who have watched the progress of this national network, is the remarkable rise of this system from a chain of 15 stations only 15 months ago to a network of nearly 50 today. This and the National Broadcasting Company with its various divisions give the entire United States and adjoining territories “full coverage” of programs such as only New York can provide.
The extent to which the Columbia system has expanded is revealed in a booklet issued to prospective radio advertisers. Here it is noted that from a small chain confined to 15 stations in the northeast, furnishing only 10 hours of entertainment a week, the system has grown to one of 49 stations spread over the whole United States, broadcasting more than 21 hours a week and promising further expansion in this direction.
Buys WABC as “Key”
At the same time this expanded network is inaugurated, it is announced that the Columbia System has bought station WABC in New York and is preparing to build a new highpower transmitter from which the entire new network will operate. WABC at present is part time “key” station for the Columbia System, sharing its programs with WOR. After September, 1929, all programs will emanate from the new WABC studios and high power transmitters.
In addition the United Independent Broadcasters, which owns and operates the Columbia System, loses its identity in the change of official name to the Columbia Broadcasting System. William S. Paley, president of the United Independent Broadcasters, remains in the same capacity as head of the new Columbia System, while Major J. Andrew White, who has been managing the affairs of the old Columbia System as its president, becomes managing director of the new outfit.
The old network of the Columbia System remains the “basic network” of the new group. This consists of 27 stations in practically the same area which the original system covered. Here, according to the company's announcement, there is a population of 60,000,000, including a potential radio audience of 27,500,000.
Three new southern groups are to be added to this basic network. The first group Includes the stations in Richmond, Norfolk and Asheville. Serving a 5,000,000 population In the states of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and part of West Virginia.
The second southern group takes in Nashville, Chattanooga, Birmingham and Memphis, including more than 7,000,000 inhabitants in this territory.
The third croup in the south is rather southwestern, as the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas are represented with stations in Hot Springs, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. Here is another 7,000,000 population to be covered by this addition.
The fourth, group to be added to the Columbia System is that of the far west and the Pacific coast. The stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Spokane have already been linked to the eastern network for an hour every Sunday evening for the last three months. Now Denver and Salt Lake City are added and all, will get the full time benefits planned, by the new administration.
The far west area covers a potential audience of about 7,000,000 persons, say the Columbia System officials.
In addition to these groups there are the supplementary stations in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and New Orleans which will take the programs of the new system. These broadcasters, it is estimated, have a combined potential radio audience of about 4,000.000 listeners.
The effectiveness with which the new Columbia Broadcasting System will cover the country is brought out in the following statement in the booklet issued by it: “In the territory blanketed by these stations. 87 per cent of the population of the United States is concentrated. Ninety per cent of all manufactured products and 79 per cent of all farm products are produced in this territory. Ninety-one per cent of the country's purchasing power is located here.”

“L-S-N-R” didn’t critique the January 8th gala—he did review a talk about hats on WNYC—but Paley’s autobiography reveals he went on the air and announced his little white lie about affiliates viz-a-viz NBC. Both were now nationwide networks, and both beefed up their programming to usher in the Golden Days of Radio.

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