Monday, April 17, 2006

Radio Networks Week Pt. 1

In the begnning, all radio was live, and all talent and programming local. There was no infastructure for it to be any other way. Its hard to imageine it now, in a time of wall-paper music, centrally created playlists, syndication, satillite feeds, and the digitally cut & pasted "local-ish" programs like Carson Daly's top ten.

So when networks first began to record and feed programs to each other, it changed the world. For the first time for people in one region could be exposed to the same broadcast media as another. (news paper syndication was already almost a century old)

The Red Network.
The first Syndicated program occurred on January 4, in 1923. It was a simultaneous transmission of a New York-originated program from 770 WEAF New York and 1230WNAC Boston. It was the song "Habanera" from the opera Carmen by Bizet as performed by soloist Davera Nadwernay. A few months later it was repeated via a more developed and extensive network. Thsi program originated from Carnegie Hall and was broadcast by WEAF New York, 810 WGY Schenectady, 1020 KDKA Pittsburgh, and 1500 KYW Chicago.

AT&T made it all possible and in 1923 they began constructing radio stations support this platform beginning with 980 WCAP-AM in Washington, D. C. These broadcasters were specially outfitted for this task and were called the Red Network. It was all owned by RCA, Westinghouse and General Electric. Info here:

A year later they already had the first Network-sponsored broadcast! It was "The Eveready Hour." It originated at WEAF and was carried by WCAP and WJAR, sponsored by the National Carbon Company.

The formal inaugeration was Sept. 9th, 1926. It was the launch of NBC. It was live from the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. NBC president Merlin Ailesworth says "Beginning tonight you will receive a new thrill in radio..." There were 26 Stations in the red network that night.

AT&T had foreseen the whole scenario and was the practice of the era, they had put a choke-hold on future expansion with its virtual monopoly on radio transmissions over telephone lines. NBC had to buy out AT&T's entire broadcasting business. In the deal AT&T agreed not to compete with NBC in the 'network broadcasting' field for a period of seven years.

the Blue Network
After they owned the telephone lines, NBC began strategizing. A transcontinental radio network was a big damn thing and they wanted to get their money out of it. In 1927 they formally divided their network in half respective to their two divided marketing strategies. The Red Network focused on entertainment and music programming from WEAF. The NBC Blue Networkfrocused on their or non-sponsored broadcasts like news programs from WJZ. *Supposedly these designations originate with the color of push pins on an engineers corkboard.

the Orange Network
On Apr 5th 1927 NBC launched it's Orange Network. It was a West Coast based network comprised of seven stations: KPO, KOMO, KGO, KGW, KFI, KFOA and KHQ. Within a year, their network consisted of 47 stations stretching coast to coast. KPO was their flagship station. Eventually as the NBC wire network crossed the rockies the Orange Network was folded into the Red and Blue networks.

But in 1941 they got the big smack down. they got into a situation, where politiaclly they had to divest itself of some stations to cease it monopolistic, anti-competative buisness practices. The Red' and 'Blue' networks were split up. What really happened was the FCC picked a fight. In 1941, the FCC had issued a study on network broadcasting, and determined that "no license should be granted to any station affiliated with a network organization maintaining more than one network".

In the FCC's opinion, NBC's two-network system was not in the public interest. To avoid losing potential affiliates, NBC sold the Blue Network in 1943, and became the American Broadcasting Company in 1945. . ..Pt. 2 tomorrow