Monday, January 04, 2010

Johannes Steel radio commentator

Johannes Steel, a newspaperman and radio commentator whose career was marked by controversy. He was pro-labor, and some called him a communist. Ironically, he self-identified as an Eisenhower republican. He is an interesting newscaster in WWI so interesting in fact you'll see marked differences between his listing on the German Wikipedia page and the English one. To American history he was a crank. A commie, a pro-union loud-mouth. To the Germans he was a Jew, a socialist that fled Germany when the Nazis took power to fling stones at them from afar.

In 1940 Sam Romer wrote a memo to Sidney Hertzberg about anti-war network commentators. Johannes Steel was listed as an "anti-interventionist." His commentary was listed as 7:45 PM daily on WMCA. Of course in Romers thoroughness most of the WMCA staff was listed including: Burnett Hershey, Sidney Mosley and Bruce Oliver were all listed as well. The inclusion is dubious as steel was notoriously anti-Nazi. His 15 minute program was sponsored by the Monarch Wine Company and Simon Akerman clothes.

It was programming like that which put WMCA on the chopping block with the FCC. they fell on the wrong side of the fairness doctrine. I find it interesting that conservatives rail against it today in hyperbole, but in the past they used it to railroad liberals. In 1939 they were even accused of treason. More here.
"Last week station WMCA, New York City, was asked to show cause why its license should not be revoked for violations of the federal communications act of 1934. The Manhattan station allegedly picked up, decoded and broadcast messages by German and British governments to their respective forces. Officials of the station denied the charge but will have to prove the denial in a public hearing in Washington..."
Steel escaped Germany knowing that his membership in the SPD could have led to his demise. He went to France and eventually America where he later became a citizen. He became the foreign editor of The New York Post and a columnist for the Daily Compass. He did news commentary on the Mutual Radio Network. In 1939 he began on air commentaries at WMCA. Sometimes this is listed in his biographies at WHN, but the WHN calls only came into use in 1962. In 1948 he was fired, probably because the Red Channels report tied 34 commie connections to him; more than any other broadcaster. He attribute the firing to pressure from the Catholic Church. In 1949 he took a job commenting for WLIB.

Later in his life he wrote a syndicated financial column in The Waterbury Republican-American newspaper. He died in 1988, at 80 years old.