Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Golden Star Chinese Hour

There is'nt a lot of  Asian programming on American radio stations. Across most of the US it's just blocks of time on brokered ethnic stations such as KSQQ, WUST, WNWR, and the Multicultural Radio Broadcasting network: KAHZ, KAZN, KTWR, KMRB, WKDM, and WZRC.  The few wholly dedicated stations that exist are on the west coast, mostly centered around San Francisco. Those are as follows:
  • 1450 KEST-AM (Cantonese)
  • 1510 KSFN-AM (Mandarin)
  • 1400 KVTO-AM (Cantonese)

Previously 92.3 KSJO was a brokered ethnic airing mostly Asian programming in that metro. They flipped to country only this last April. More here.  It's also worth nothing that the above mentioned brokered-ethnic  96.1 KSQQ airs some Chinese, and Vietnamese language programming in the same metro as well, but also Portuguese among other culturally programs. hundreds of thousands of Chinese and other Asian immigrants came to America in the 1800s some fleeing the Taiping Rebellion, other fleeing poverty, and later waves were virtual slaves brought in as labor to build railroads. These large populations remained concentrated on the west coast following the gold rush of the 1850s. It is unsurprising then, that the first media outlets catering to these groups first appeared there as well.

It was decades before any radio programs began targeting minorities of any kind. While African-Americans were arguably the first minority groups in broadcasting, the programs were not marketed toward their communities at the time. The rise of black radio came in the mid to late 1940s. The first all Chinese-language radio program was broadcast on April 22 1939, by 1450 KSAN-AM right in San Francisco. It's director ans sponsor was Thomas Tong of the Golden Star Radio Company. Most sources cite this date as 1940 but that is incorrect.

The Golden Star Chinese Hour aired news, music and other entertainment including Chinese opera. Thoma's wife, Mary Chinn Tong delivered the nightly news. In the late 1940s (1939 - 1948) journalist Gilbert Gang Nam Woo was one of their radio commentators. It's studio address was listed as 846 Clay Street and the phone as "CHina 2322."  His radio supply and repair shop, the Golden Star Radio Company was established as early as 1936 according to advertisements in Chinese Digest Magazine. Chinese Digest itself had only been founded in 1935 by Thomas W. Chinn. The radio program aired until 1979.

When the United Nations was founded in San Francisco in 1945, Gilbert Gang Nam Woo was still commenting on Golden Star, but was also acting as a translator for President Truman. In this interview [SOURCE] Thomas W. Chinn describes a book printed by Golden Star In it he describes a picture of his picture is the President Truman, Thomas Tong, and Gilbert Woo, posed together for a picture... I'd like to see that.

The original KSAN-AM was a pioneer in many different ways over the course of it's existence. Until at least the late 1950s it was alone broadcasting programs for minority groups; not just the Chinese and Japanese, but also Italian, Portuguese, German communities. The station originally debuted as KGTT in 1925 and became KGGC in 1929. It was in 1938 it became KSAN and, in 1938. In 1958, KSAN flipped to all R&B and I'm not sure where Golden Star went, but by all reports the program continued another two decades.