CBS - In the Beginning (McLeod)

Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2002 05:39:06 -0400
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: CBS -- In The Beginning

At the start, did the network ID as the "Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System," as was reported at least once this morning during the network's miniature salute to itself? Obviously, there are no recordings of the first few months, so we have to rely on recollection and contemporary printed reports, but I'm curious as to when, if it happened at all, CPBS changed to CBS.

There's no indication in any contemporary account of the CBS sign-on festivities that the "Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System" name was ever used on air -- and, in fact, the same issue of Radio Digest which featured the article on the network startup featured a full-page ad listing the initial roster of stations, and identifying the organization as simply "The Columbia Broadcasting System." Gleason Archer refers to the network signing on as "The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System" in "Big Business and Radio" (1938) but I tend to think the primary source is the more reliable.

Subsequent accounts in Radio Digest and other publications during 1927-28 refer simply to "Columbia" or "The Columbia Network." I don't think I've seen "CBS" show up in print until 1929 or 1930.

And while we're at it, wasn't CBS originally going to be known as UIB, for United Independent Broadcasters?

Now we get into the interesting part of the story -- UIB was one of several corporate entities formed by Arthur Judson and George Coats in 1926-27, and the more you look at their activities during this period, the more you have to wonder how they managed to stay out of jail, let alone how they managed to stay in business.

As the Radio Digest article noted, Judson was a promoter in the Sol Hurok sense of the word -- an impresario who specialized in presenting high-class concert artists on various New York stages. But his associate George Coats seems to have been more of a promoter in the Kingfish sense of the word -- a slick-talking entrepreneur with the habit of setting up grandiose-sounding corporations and lining up investors -- only to have those corporations never quite live up to their prospectuses. (The 1920s and the 1990s have more in common than we think.) And as much as CBS might not care to acknowledge Judson's and Coats's role in their origin, they're in fact descended from what looks for all the world like a poorly managed, rickety promotional scheme in which none of the principals seemed to know quite what they were doing.

Judson was originally less interested in starting a radio network than in finding a new outlet for his roster of musical artists. His first venture in this direction was the Judson Radio Program Corporation, formed in 1926. His idea was to act as a middleman between sponsors and networks -- an independent packager of radio programming, using talent under contract to the company. He approached David Sarnoff with this idea in the fall of 1926, but was shown the door almost immediately -- the better for Sarnoff to help himself to the idea, and use it as the basis for the NBC Artists Bureau.

Judson and his associate Coats then decided to try to start a network of their own, and they had everything they needed to do it except money, radio stations, and any knowledge of the broadcasting business. So they went right ahead and had certificates printed for stock shares in United Independent Broadcasters and divided them up among themselves -- and then without the slightest idea of how to start a radio network, Coats hit the road to find affiliates. The idea was that UIB would pay each affiliate a flat rate of $500 for a guarantee of ten hours per week of broadcast time -- and most stations of this era being shoestring operations, most of them jumped at the chance -- even though the network didn't exist anywhere but on paper. With nothing but promises, Coats signed up a dozen affiliates -- but still didn't have any way to deliver on the promises.

The big problem was raising the money to lease the network lines from AT&T - and this was where Coats got lucky. In the spring of 1927, Coats managed to convince the president of the Columbia Phonograph Corporation to buy $163,000 worth of time on the new network -- and pay cash up front for it. The idea was that Columbia Phonograph would then resell this time, in ten-hour units to other clients. The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company was set up as a paper corporation to handle this work -- with its stock divided up among a number of additional investors, none of whom had anything to do with Judson, Coats, or UIB. The only link between the two corporations was the contract for Columbia to buy the time from UIB.

Columbia handed over the money with no guarantee that Coats and Judson would ever get the network off the ground, but they were able -- perhaps with a bit of political arm twisting -- to get AT&T to lease the necessary lines. Meanwhile, Coats and Judson finally realized they knew nothing about broadcasting, and sold Major J. Andrew White 200 shares of stock in UIB in order to get access to his expertise. However, even White was unable to do anything meaningful in the way of lining up clients because of the clumsy arrangement with Columbia -- no sponsor wanted to share sponsorship credit with another company for its programs. It was perhaps because of this that "Phonograph" was apparently not used on air.

When the new network finally signed on, there were three corporations involved -- Judson Radio Program Corporation, which assembled the programming -- United Independent Broadcasters, which arranged for the network lines, and Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company, which fronted the cash and made its contract talent available for broadcasting. None of these three corporations had any control over the others, and all were most concerned with their own interests. Columbia Phonograph lost $100,000 on the project over the first month of the project, sold no sponsors whatsoever, and dropped out. That cut off the cash flow before the network was a month old. They did, however, leave their name behind -- figuring any advertising is good advertising -- and also retained the block of time they had bought, to be used for their own "Columbia Phonograph Hour," at that time the only sponsored program on the chain.

It was here that George "Kingfish" Coats saved the network. With a mountain of debt, no source of income, no future prospects, and no assets other than a pile of essentially worthless stock certificates, Coats sold a Philadelphia millionaire named J. H. Louchheim an interest in the company and got him to agree to put up the money to keep it running. Loucheim then pooled his shares with a minority interest Coats had sold to the Levy brothers -- owners of WCAU -- and took a controlling interest in UIB, with Judson and Coats retaining most of the rest of the stock, as well as control of the Judson Radio Program Corporation, which had a five-year contract to produce programs for the network. A few sponsors signed on -- very few -- but the losses continued to mount.

Over the next eight months, Louchheim flushed a fortune into UIB, and lost it all -- although he got plenty of additional stock certificates to show for his investment. Finally, in September of 1928, Loucheim -- by this time ready to kill Coats on sight -- jumped at the chance to dump the whole soggy mess into the lap of a snappy-dressing 27-year-old millionaire whose family's company -- Congress Cigar Co. -- was one of the few Columbia sponsors. William Paley then convinced his father and several of his uncles to join him in the venture -- and took a three month leave of absence from the cigar business to see if the new purchase was worth anything.

One of the first things the new owner did was clean up the messy corporate structure. The Columbia Broadcasting Company was dissolved, but its name was kept -- and on 1/3/29, United Independent Broadcasters officially changed its name to Columbia Broadcasting System Inc. Judson and Coats retained Judson Radio Program Corporation, along with their minority interest in the new CBS -- but from here on, Paley was in control. The network lost over $380,000 thru the end of 1928, but it would never have another losing year.

Out of curiosity, is there any evidence to indicate that the first broadcast was recorded, in whole or in part? I know CBS didn't regularly record their own broadcasts until well into the 1930's, but is there any chance that a pile of dusty experimental airchecks of this broadcast are out there waiting to be uncovered?

One would think that Columbia Phonograph might have recorded some of it - - they did occasional experimental off-air recordings during the late twenties while testing one recording head or other -- but nothing's ever surfaced. It probably would be disappointing even if we did have recordings -- a monstrous thunderstorm that afternoon over the Eastern US rendered the broadcast essentially unlistenable for much of the audience. The storm was so severe that none of the stations west of Buffalo got any more than a few minutes of the program.


Excerpts from the September 1927 issue of Radio Digest


Beginning Sunday afternoon September 18, the competitive element in nation-wide broadcasting enters by way of the 16 carefully selected high powered radio stations included in the Columbia Broadcasting System's network, which covers the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.

In spite of the fact that this is still a day of pioneering in Radio, the new Columbia chain enters as a lusty full strided youth, and a well manned organization, and a wealth of musical and entertainment experience as a background.


The musical experience and resources of Arthur Judson, outstanding American musical impresario, and who has charge of the musical end of all Columbia chain programs, has made itself felt. Mr. Judson, who has a lifetime contract with Maurice Van Praag, said to be one of the finest, if not the finest judge of musical talent in the world, instructed Van Praag to assemble a Radio symphony orchestra which would include twenty-two soloists and which would set a new standard in musical excellence for orchestras of this size...

To direct this orchestra, Howard Barlow, brilliant young American conductor and composer, and a particularly brilliant musical arranger, was selected.


Don Voorhees, who has the record for the longest unbroken orchestra run on Broadway, and who has been musical director for Earl Carroll since the second edition of the Earl Carroll Vanities, has been put in charge of a dance and specialty orchestra.

Red Nichols, popular for his phonograph record and Radio work, heads a specialty musical group.

Chamber music groups, a string quartet, and several dance orchestra units are included in a list that already totals 80 musicians and groups under exclusive contract.

The signing of these artists and organizations represents an innovation in the field of nationwide radio broadcasting as a result of the Columbia chain's policy, which sells not only the chain over which the program is broadcast but also the program itself, together with an adequate staff of Radio showmen, continuity writers, directors and technical experts, to insure that the programs will justify the slogan which the Columbia chain has set for itself. The slogan is: "Always entertainment on every Columbia hour. [Note -- there were no dramatic or comedy programs on the schedule.]

Major J. Andrew White, dean of broadcasters and builder of the first Radio station designed to furnish free entertainment to Radio set owners, as Vice-President of the Columbia chain brings to the Columbia network an experience dating back into Radio's very earliest days, and brings also his pioneering spirit which has in the past been responsible for so many of the forms of Radio entertainment so popular today.


A new personality will make its debut before the millions of Radio's audience with the opening program in the person of a man whose identity will be concealed behind a black mask and who will be known only as The Voice of Columbia.

The Voice of Columbia is a discovery of Major White's. Fooling around with an indoor microphone one evening, this man, who happens to hold a high place in the commercial world, began broadcasting. A few experiments followed, and the Major decided that this nimble wit and affable voice would simply have to go on the air. [Note -- the mystery-man gimmick was quickly dropped, and the "Voice of Columbia" became simply Frank Knight.]


Work has progressed to the finishing stages in the three new indoor and two outdoor studios for WOR, which is the key station to be used by the new Columbia chain. [Note -- these studios were still uncompleted at the time of the initial CBS broadcast, and in fact network master control ran from a makeshift control facility set up in the WOR men's room.]

No announcement as to the sponsors of the programs have yet been made, except in the case of the Columbia Phonograph company, which will have the hour between 9 and 10 o'clock each Wednesday evening. [Note -- there were no other sponsors willing to buy CBS time until early 1928, and this nearly sank the network before it could get established.]

The list of stations in the new chain are WOR New York; WEAN, Providence; WNAC, Buffalo; WFBL, Syracuse; WMAK Buffalo; WCAU, Philadelphia; WJAS, Pittsburgh; WADC, Akron; WAIU, Columbus; WKRC, Cincinnati; WGHP, Detroit; WMAQ, Chicago; KMOX, St. Louis; WCAO, Baltimore; KOIL, Council Bluffs; WOWO, Ft. Wayne."

CBS World News Roundup (McLeod)

Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000 13:18:07 -0500
From: Elizabeth McLeod lizmcl@midcoast.com
To: old.time.radio@oldradio.net
Subject: Re: CBS World News Roundup -- Facts and Fiction

Anybody know the exact chronology of a continuously-running "Roundup"-type broadcast over CBS? Has it actually run nonstop since 1938? I always presumed the actual start of the run was September, 1939, with the nightly 6:45 PM roundup "News From Europe", which became "Today In Europe", which eventually became "The World Today". Anybody know for sure?

The 3/13/38 program carried no definitive title -- nor does it anywhere include the word "Roundup." It was introduced as a "radio tour of Europe's capital cities," and it is evident from reviewing the rest of CBS's Anschluss coverage that the broadcast was essentially the network's attempt to regain the face it had lost as a result of Max Jordan's on-scene reports from Vienna for NBC. In examining "Vienna, March 1938," a slick promotional book put out by the CBS Publicity Department that spring, you'll find no indication that the 3/13 broadcast was seen as having any sort of special long-term significance. Although it was followed on 3/14 by a second "radio tour of the troubled capitals of the world," these were the only two broadcasts of this type during the Anschluss crisis, and they did not herald the beginning of a regular series.

The only news program on the CBS network schedule during the summer of 1938 was that of commentator Boake Carter, who was heard nightly at 745 pm Eastern for General Foods. There were five-minute 730am and 11pm news periods over WABC only, but this was "rip and read" Press-Radio Bureau material read by a staff announcer. (During this period, Bob Trout was occupied with staff announcer duties in New York, handling the announcing chores on "Professor Quiz." Murrow and Shirer were still in Europe, arranging occasional special cultural broadcasts thru the summer.)

In late August or early September (I've not been able to pin down the exact date) Trout was assigned to a nightly 15 minute network news block, heard from 630 to 645pm Eastern, and entitled "Today with Bob Trout." This was not a European roundup, but rather a daily studio summary of news and events, with occasional studio interview guests. Limited though the format was, however, it appears to have been CBS's first in-house attempt at a meaningful nightly newscast since the abortive "Columbia News Service" project in 1933.

In September 1938, the Sudeten Crisis brought the focus back to news, and CBS returned to the "roundup" idea on 9/12, broadcasting a half-hour "tour of world capitals" from 730 to 8 pm. Between 9/13 and 9/30, thirteen additional roundups were heard -- but, significantly, these were not heard in regularly scheduled time periods. On some days, no roundups were heard, on other days two were aired, and rarely was there any continuity in the time slot -- the reports were dropped into whatever open period could be found, whenever atmospheric conditions allowed the reports to get thru. (It's important to add here that CBS's overseas coverage during this crisis was significantly compromised by poor atmospheric conditions over the Atlantic. NBC developed an alternate shortwave route which avoided the storms, and for much of the Crisis, its coverage was far easier to follow.)

Once the crisis calmed, CBS went back to its limited schedule of news, with "Today with Bob Trout" its only nightly network news period, supplemented by local Press-Radio Bureau broadcasts. This schedule continued well into 1939.

Unscheduled roundups reappeared during mid-August 1939, at the time of the Polish Corridor dispute, and these finally became a regular nightly series in early September, replacing "Today with Bob Trout," and moving to 645pm as "European News Roundup," aka "The News From Europe Direct From Europe." The 630 to 645 period was taken over by H. V. Kaltenborn for a nightly period of commentary, giving CBS for the first time in its history a solid half-hour block of nightly news. A morning edition of the "European News Roundup" was also scheduled from 8 to 815 am Eastern.

So, to sum up, Chris is precisely right when he questions the claim that the 3/13/38 special broadcast marked the beginning of "World News Tonight." The idea of a regular nightly newscast by CBS staff personnel did not appear until the fall of 1938 -- and this program didn't take on the format of a European roundup until a year later. The only basis for claiming a continuous run since 1938 is if you include the "Today with Bob Trout" broadcast, which started nearly six months after the "first roundup," and which didn't follow the roundup format. This being so, I think it makes much more sense to state that August-September 1939 marked the true birth of CBS-News-as-we-know-it. The crises of 1938 were simply the gestation period.

And this brings up a question from me about the 3/13/38 program. The circulating copy of this broadcast is approximately 22 minutes long -- and is missing the middle portion. The circulating copy appears to have originated with the National Archives, and the NARA catalogue listing for the broadcast indicates that it comes from two sides of a single 16" lacquer. Evidently, this program was recorded on three sides of two discs, with ten minutes or so to each side -- and the second disc, containing part two, appears to be missing. Does anyone know of a surviving complete copy of this broadcast?


Seventeen Stations Honored for 30 Years of Affiliation
With CBS Radio Network

Largest Group Ever To Join Network's 30-Year Club

This is a CBS Radio press release dated Sept. 30, 1974.

Seventeen radio stations were honored last week for their 30 years of continuous affiliation with the CBS Radio Network.

Executives of the stations, in Phoenix, Ariz., to attend the Network's 19th Affiliates Convention, were presented gold microphones in recognition of their stations' three decades of affiliation with the CBS Radio Network. The presentation ceremony, a traditional event at CBS Radio Affiliates Conventions, was presided over by Sam Cook Digges, President CBS Radio Division, who pointed out that this was the largest group ever to be so honored. "It brings the total number of stations in our 30-Year Club to 59," he said.

The stations that received the CBS Radio Network gold mike awards were WGAU, Athens, Ga.; KLBJ, Austin, Texas; WJLS, Beckley, W. Va.; WDWS, Champaign, Ill.; WHUB, Cookeville, Tenn.; WDAN, Danville, Ill.; WSOY, Decatur, Ill.; WCED, Dubois, Pa.; WINK, Fort Myers, Fla.; WFMD, Frederick, Md.; WENT, Gloversville, N.Y.; WHOP, Hopkinsville, Ky.; WLBC, Muncie, Ind.; WPAD, Paducah, Ky.; WSPB, Sarasota, Fla.; WTAX, Springfield, Ill., and WWNY, Watertown, N.Y.

Stations that have received gold mikes in the past and their dates of affiliation follow:

WBNSColumbus, OhioSeptember 14, 1927
WCCOMinneapolis, Minn.December 15, 1928
KOINPortland, Ore.December 15, 1928
KRLDDallas, TexasJanuary 1, 1929
KLZDenver, Colo.January 1, 1929
WKBNYoungstown, OhioOctober 6, 1929
KFHWichita, Kans.October 8, 1929
WIBWTopeka, Kans.October 8, 1929
WRECMemphis, Tenn.October 8, 1929
WHPHarrisburg, Pa.March 1, 1930
WTOPWashington, D.C.October 1, 1930
KTRHHouston, TexasDecember 1, 1930
WDBOOrlando, Fla.June 20, 1931
WTOCSavannah, Ga.June 20, 1931
KVORColorado Springs, Colo.July 12, 1931
WMBDPeoria, Ill.December 13, 1931
WBIGGreensboro, N.C.January 1, 1932
WSBTSouth Bend, Ind.January 1, 1932
KSLSalt Lake City, UtahSeptember 1, 1932
WIBXUtica, N.Y.October 14, 1934
WHCUIthaca, N.Y.June 30, 1935
WMMNFairmont, W. Va.October 23, 1935
WWLNew Orleans, La.November 1, 1935
KGVOMissoula, Mont.August 9, 1936
WHIODayton, OhioOctober 1, 1936
WCHSCharleston, W. Va.February 14, 1937
WMAZMacon, Ga.April 4, 1937
WBAYGreen Bay, Wis.April 11, 1937
WGBIScranton, Pa.May 2, 1937
KGLOMason City, IowaJune 27, 1937
WAIMAnderson, S.C.July 18, 1937
KDALDuluth, Minn.September 5, 1937
WQQWWaterbury, Conn.December 1, 1938
WRBLColumbus, Ga.March 15, 1939
KWFTWichita Falls, TexasJuly 15, 1939
WMTCedar Rapids, IowaApril 28, 1940
WFOYSt. Augustine, Fla.June 13, 1940
WKZOKalamazoo, Mich.July 14, 1940
WTADQuincy, 111.February 16, 1941
WSPASpartanburg, S.C.March 29, 1941
WMBSUniontown, Pa.March 29, 1941
WGPCAlbany, Ga.April 13, 1941

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