Golden Age of Radio 1935-50
1935 – Radio became the “central medium” of Depression America; 2 of 3 homes had radio sets, the 4 national and 20 regional networks provided programs everywhere in America 24 hours a day, advertising agencies shifted money from newspapers to radio as public trust in print media declined but grew stronger in radio.
1936 – CBS began the “Columbia Workshop” series. In the November election, FDR used radio more effectively than Alf Landon, with both parties spending a record $2 million on radio. Father Coughlin formed a Union Party and used radio to attack FDR. March of Time story on “Royal Oak, Michigan” 8/16/35.
1937 – Archibald MacLeish produced an allegory on the growing threat of war in Europe with his radio play “The Fall of the City” on CBS, Arch Oboler produced “Lights Out” on NBC, Orson Welles began his “Mercury Theatre” series on CBS. When the Hindenburg exploded at Lakehurst NJ May 15, 1937, WLS announcer Herb Morrison and engineer Charles Nehlsen were making a disc recording and thus were able to capture the event “live” as it happened. This recording was so unique and dramatic that NBC decided to break its own rule banning records on the radio and allowed this recording to be broadcast on the network.
1938 – two radio programs in October exposed the growing national fear of war “Air Raid” by Archibald MacLeish; “War of the Worlds” by Orson Wells. “The Plot to Overthrow Christmas” by Norman Corwin was heard by Edward R. Murrow in New York, at home briefly from his European post, and began the long and close friendship of the two radio pioneers. On Nov. 10, Kate Smith broadcast Irving Berlin’s song “God Bless America,” a broadcast reenacted for the 1943 film This Is the Army.
1939 – The earlier bombing of Guernica inspired Norman Corwin’s hatred of fascism, and he decided to write “They Fly through the Air with the Greatest of Ease” for his “Words Without Music” radio series; it premiered 2/19/1939, caused a thousand favorable letters sent to CBS; “it was, in truth, bold radio at a time when growing isolationism made even the mention of war a matter of controversy. Broadcasting, in particular, tried to maintain a balance between the two factions of public sentiment. The fact that CBS made no attempt to censor the broadcast was evidence again of the network’s liberal leaning. Still, seven months later, the network decided it best to cancel a repeat of the program upon the news that England and France had declared war.” (Bannerman p. 43) The program won award from the Ohio State Institute for Education by Radio as best individual dramatic program of 1938-39. NBC broadcast a concert by Marian Anderson from the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, Apr. 9, before a live audience of 75,000 and a radio audience of millions. Charles Lindbergh spoke on radio in favor of isolationism.
1940 – Radio News reached maturity with regular reports of the bombing of London by Edward R. Murrow, his “London After Dark” series broadcast by shortwave; William L. Shirer reported the fall of France and the dramatic surrender at Compaigne. In the November election, FDR’s radio skill helped him defeat Wendell Willkie and win an unprecedented third term as President. Music remained the dominant content of redio, occupying 50% of all programming. A federal court had allowed radio stations to play records without the prior consent of artists or music companies, and ASCAP raised its rates. When some radio stations refused, and signed contracts with the new BMI, ASCAP arranged for compromise rates.
1941 – The FCC Mayflower rule prohibited stations from editorializing only one point of view, later to become known as the Fairness Doctrine. In New York, Maritin Block started the first disc jockey show called “The Make Believe Ballroom” on WNEW when he pretended to be talking about live bands and performers, but was actually only playing records. No recording was made of the first news bulletin announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The famous recording by John Daly saying “We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air” was actually spliced together in 1948 for the Murrow record album I Can Hear It Now by Fred Friendly of CBS. The splice was made from two other later recordings, according to veteran radio announcer Robert Trout, and no news bulletin interrupted any network program on Dec. 7.
1942 – and Norman Corwin produced “This Is War” on CBS. Command Performance began March 1, produced by the Radio Division of the War Department’s Bureau of Public Relations. The Voice of America was created by the government to broadcast propaganda abroad. The Armed Forces Radio was started May 26 and created a world-wide network of radio stations for service personnel, including the mobile American Expeditionary Stations that moved with the troops. The radio service became the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFRS) with 306 stations. James Petrillo of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) began on July 31 a 2-year strike against the Big 4 recording companies, RCA Victor, Decca, Columbia, Capitol, and radio stations who refused to pay new ASCAP-like fees to muscians, and eventually won a victory over the networks.
1943 – Only 700,000 radio sets were sold due to the wartime ban on non-essential electronic manufacturing, down from the 13 million sets sold in 1941. Shellac was also deemed a strategic war material, causing a decline in the production of phonograph records. The AFRS began using vinyl to make records for distribution to its military radio stations. In Sept., Lt. George Robert Vincent began the production of V-discs with the permission of James Petrillo to use AFM musicians to make records only for the military.The Army used wire recorders and developed the hand-held walkie-talkie radio set.
1944 – The percentage of radio time devoted to news increased to 20%, up from 7% in 1939, but music still dominated programming. In the November election, FDR defeated Thomas Dewey to win a 4th term, and 50% of the nation’s radio homes listened to the election eve reports on November 7. The ratings system of Clark Hooper using random telephone calls replaced the old Crossley polls.
1945 – Edward R. Murrow reported the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 15. Norman Corwin produced “On a Note of Triumph” on CBS. The Blue Network that had been sold by NBC in 1943 to Edward J. Noble became ABC. “Meet the Press” began on NBC, and would become the longest running radio show in history. Fiorella LaGuardia read the Sunday comics over the radio during a newspaper strike, Universal 18-414 newsreel, 7/9/45, on Newsreel DVD57.
1946 – The post-war radio business exploded as controls were removed, manufacturing of sets resumed, the number of AM stations on the air would increase from 961 in 1946 to 2006 in 1949, and 6 millions autos had sets. A poll found that 63% of the American people regarded radio as their primary source of news. Edward R. Murrow produced radio documentaries at CBS such as “Who Killed Michael Farmer?”
1947 – Bing Crosby adopted magnetic recording for his new radio program on ABC.
1948 – The Democratic and Republican National Conventions were held in Philadelphia to take advantage of the city’s central location on the East Coast coaxial cable and microwave relay network. Television remained an infant medium during the FCC freeze 1948-52, with only 107 TV stations competing with 2000 AM stations. The FCC canceled the low-band FM frequency of 40 MHz favored by Edwin Armstrong, allocating instead all FM transmission to the higher 88-108 MHz band, and contributing to the decline of FM broadcasting until the mid-1950s.
1949 – Radio income from advertising reached a high of $203 million, but an increasing proportion of this was earned by local stations, and the national networks lost an increasing proportion. Radio was victim of its phenomenal growth; the more stations, the greater division of advertising revenue. Only half of the 2000 AM stations on-air were affiliated with a network.
1950 – 40 million American homes owned radio sets (94% of all households), up from the 30 million in 1942 (84%) and the 20 million in 1934 (65%).
Development of Radio News
Lowell Thomas – Sept. 29, 1930
Press-radio war – April 1933
Schechter at NBC; Klauber, White at CBS
1934 Communications Act – “public interest”
FDR’s New Deal – a “national public forum”
Senator Burton Wheeler cut off in East
Earl Browder dropped in New England
Hawariate relayed but Aloisi refused by BBC
Edward VIII’s abdication Dec. 1936
Murrow organizes CBS European bureau
Shirer, LaSuer, Collingwood, Smith, Sevareid
Murrow critical of BBC Nov. 1937:
· “radio has enormous power but it has no character, no conscience of its own.”
March 13, 1938 – multipoint shorwave roundup
Sept. 12-30 – Munich – Kaltenborn in Studio 9
1939 – The World Today at 6:45 p.m. every day
1943 – On Oct. 12, NBC Blue became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
1881 – Clement Adler at the Paris Electrical Exhibition put “a series of 80 telephone transmitters across the stage at the Paris Opera and connected them by wires to telephone receivers in a suite of four rooms” in a local hotel where visitors could pick up a receiver for each ear and listen to the live transmision, but no sound was recorded.
1916 – Harvey Fletcher joined the Research Division of Western Electric Engineering Dept to work with Irving Crandall on hearing and speech, was director of acoustic research at Bell Labs 1927-49, built the Western Electric Model 2A hearing aid and a binaural headset in the 1920’s, published the widely-read book Speech and Hearing in 1929 that analyzed the characteristics of sound. Fletcher would lead much of the research on binaural, or what later would be called “stereophonic” sound recording, at Bell Labs.
1931 – In December, Harvey Fletcher and Arthur C. Keller of Bell Labs with Leopold Stokowski used improved electrical recording equipment in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to record and transmit monaural and binarual sound. Also in December, Alan Dower Blumlein filed a patent application in Britain for stereo recording.
1932 – March 12 Stokowski recorded his first stereo disc, Scriabin’s “Poem of Fire” for Bell Labs in Philadelphia using vinyl rather than shellac, with the dynamic range extended to 60 db and response to 10,000 hz. The master disc was gold-coated by vacuum-sputtering. At first, for the Scriabin recording March 12, Bell had recorded two separate grooves for each channel, but later Arthur Keller in the patent #2,114,471 described the 45/45 method in one groove. The patent application was not filed until 1936 because Bell did not see an immediate commercial application of the method. Keller was unaware of Blumlein until the 1950s when his 45/45 system was re-invented by Westrex.
1933 – April 27 Stereoscopic sound was transmitted to the National Academy of Sciences and many invited guests at Constitution Hall, Washington. Transmission was over wire lines from the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and three channels were used with microphones respectively at left, center and right of the orchestra stage and loud speakers in similar positions in Constitution Hall. The orchestra in Philadelphia was conducted by Alexander Smallens while Dr. Stokowski in Washington manipulated the controls so as to enhance the music in accordance with his own views.
1934 – Jan. 19 Alan Blumlein recorded Thomas Beecham at the Abbey Road Studio in stereo, conducting Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony” with a vertical-lateral technique using a stylus to vibrated in 2 directions, first recording one channel of sound in a groove laterally and then recording another channel of sound in the same groove vertically.
1940 – Harvey Fletcher and Stokowski made another stereophonic demonstration at Carnegie Hall April 9 and 10, with recorded stereo music from a three-channel system using sound on film with a frequency range of 30 to 15,000 cps and a volume range of 120 decibels. A 4th track was used as a loudness playback control track. The New York Times reported April 10 “Sound Waves ‘Rock’ Carnegie Hall As Enhanced Music’ Is Played” and “The loudest sounds ever created crashed and echoed through venerable Carnegie Hall last night as a specially invited audience listened, spellbound, and at times not a little terrified.”
1945 – Decca’s early stereo LPs used a Teldec/Neumann Stereo cutter to record one channel lateral and another vertical, each on the opposite wall of a groove; but the dual tracks could not be reproduced with heavy mono pickups on the turntables and record players.
1949 – General Motors asked Magnecord to make a stereo tape recorder to improve spatial analysis of automobile noise. Magnecord modified its PT-6 tape recorder that had been introduced in May 1948 at the National Association of Broadcasters show. This modified recorder was introduced at the 1949 Audio Fair in New York with two record/play heads 1.5 inches apart, each with its own amplifier.
1951 – Emory Cook made the first stereo recordings of railroad trains in the field for the LP titled “Rail Dynamics” demonstrated at the 1951 Audio Fair in New York.
1953 – The Robe had 4-track stereo sound; was the first CinemaScope film and led the release of 33 stereo films in 1953, but stereo failed to transform motion picture soundtracks and would not reappear until 1975 with Dolby optical stereo sound. The Robe used directional sound, footsteps of Roman Legions marching from right to left, thunder and wind and rain of the crucifixion scene. The first time off-screen voices are actually heard off-screen, when voices warn Marcellus of his ship departure to Judea. Only Fox and Todd-AO would record dialogue with directional sound. All other studios provided some music in stereo for magnetic soundtracks, but recorded voices and sound effects in mono.
1954 – Jan. 31, Edwin Armstrong jumped out of 10th floor window in Alpine, NJ, committing suicide due to the tangle of lawsuits over his invention in 1939 of FM radio (his wife Mariod continued the lawsuits of another 13 years and eventually won). FM radio with lower noise and greater frequency response than AM radio would be a major stimulus to the spread of stereo.
1954 – Murray Crosby demonstrated FM stereo multiplex system in his Syosset, Long Island, lab to 16 executives of RCA; his demo was the result of a request by Leopold Stokowski to David Sarnoff; this was the first time the executives heard stereo and it led to the issue of RCA prerecorded open-reel stereo tapes; No. 1 tape that sold for $18.95 was “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner using 2-track magnetic tape at 30 ips, 2 Neumann M-50 omnidirectinal mics 12 ft. high and placed 24 ft. apart with the orchestra in between.
1954 – Feb. 21, RCA made its first commercial stereo recording of a symphony when Jack Pfieffer and Leslie Chase went to Symphony Hall in Boston to record the “Damnation of Faust” by Berlioz with a RCA RT-11 two-channel tape recorder and two Neuman U-47 mics. This same month, EMI in London made “Stereosonic” recordings at its Abbey Road studio that were announced to the public in April 1955.
1954 – In May, Decca made its first stereo recordings at the Kingsway Hall studio for classical music recording in London with the “Decca tree” designed by Roy Wallace, using 3 directional cardioid-pattern Neuman KM-56 condensor mics suspended eleven feet above and slightly behind the conductor’s platform on a cross-bar, pointed 30 degrees down to the orchestra and clustered tightly together to exclude reflected sounds from the sides and rear. The mixed signal was recorded on an Ampex 350-2 recorder at 15 ips.
1957 – Sept. 5 Westrex gave a private demonstration of its 45-45 stereo disc recording system. Shortly after, Haddy demonstrated the Decca V-L system to RCA. The Westrex system was publicly demonstrated at annual convention of the Audio Engineering Society in New York Oct. 11. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) adopted the Westrex system and the “full stereo record” (not compatible with mono records) with stylus tip of 0.7-1.0 mil radius and vertical force of 6 grams as the industry standard on March 25, 1958. High Fidelity components began to appear.
1958 – Oct. 18 the BBC began regular stereo broadcasts Saturday mornings
1960 – The dual bilateral light valve was developed, that allowed each side of an optical motion picture soundtrack to be modulated independently, allowing 2-channel stereo sound. The movie industry adopted stereo optical sound quickly, and it was the movie industry that pushed multichannel sound into home market.
1961 – April 19 FCC ruled in favor of the GE/Zenith stereo FM system rather than Crosby matrix system. Murray G. Crosby had worked for Edwin Armstrong and Crosby held 150 patents and wanted the FCC to adopt his stereo FM system that utilized the matrix principle (that of transmitting the sum signal L+R as the main channel modulation and the difference signal L-R as a subcarrier) rather than suppressed AM subcarrier principle (by Zenith & GE). WEFM in Chicago and WGFM in Schenectady began stereo FM broadcasting June 1.
1962 – 87 FM radio stations existed in 29 states and Canada, including 2 FM stations in New York City; John Koss was starting to promote his idea of individual stereo headphone listening, but few audio components had headphone jacks.
1968 – Sheffield Lab made the first modern direct disc recording, “Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues Volume One.” No tape recorder was used and only a limited number of records was manufactured. Only one single point stereo tube mic designed by Sheffield Lab was used.
1970 – Quadraphonic sound used 4-channels, but produced an “antisocial” stereo sound that allowed only one listener to hear it correctly in the stereo seat, or “sweet spot.” There was no center channel. Although it failed, the technology had a lasting effect, especially the JVC CD-4 system that recorded 4 discrete channels in the grooves of an LP record by extending the bandwidth to 50 khz. Stereo systems developed better cutting and pressing technology, better pickups with wider bandwidth and reduced tracking distortion.
Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS)
1990 – In June, a government-industry group staged a demonstration in Canada of the European- designed Eureka-147 digital radio system that used the L-band. Unlike AM and FM, L-band radio reception is virtually immune to interference, which means there are no static growls or ‘multipath’ echoes caused by signal reflections off buildings or topographical features.
1992 – World Administrative Radio Conference allocated the L-band for worldwide digital radio transmission.
1993 – Public and private broadcasters form Digital Radio Research Inc. (DRRI)
1995 – First commercial terrestrial broadcasts of L-band digital radio begin in Canada, and the first commercial digital radio receivers come on the market for consumers. This began the transition period from analog to digital radio that will result in the complete replacement of AM-FM bands by 2010 in Canada.
1997 – April 2 auction by FCC of two licenses to CD Radio and American Mobile Radio Corporation for Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (S-DARS) in the S-band. CD Radio submitted a winning bid in the amount of $83,346,000.00 for the 2320-2332.5 MHz portion of the frequency band and American Mobile Radio Corporation (XM Satellite Radio) submitted a winning bid in the amount of $89,888,888.00, for the 2332.5-2345 MHz portion of the band.
1998 – The Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC algorithm used in the demonstrations at National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) for the terrestial In-Band, On-Channel (IBOC) system that will use existing AM and FM bands for digital radio broadcasts in the U.S.
1999 – Oct. 1 – Lucent Digital Radio, Inc., announced its agreement with the National Radio Systems Committee (NRSC), a joint body representing broadcasters and electronics manufacturers, on NRSC’s testing schedule for In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) Digital Audio Broadcast systems. Lucent recently conducted tests on National Public Radio (NPR) member station WBJB-FM. These tests were the first time that an IBOC FM system successfully passed a hybrid (both analog and digital) signal over a radio station’s antenna and transmitter without affecting the host analog signal. According to the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA), there are more than 600 million radios in the United States, or more than six per household. More than 235 million Americans tune in to radio broadcasts for a weekly average of 22 hours. (Lucent press release 10/1/99)
1999 – June 15 – Ford Motor Company and CD Radio today announced an alliance to bring digital satellite radio to Ford customers. Ford is partnering with CD Radio to bring customers a revolutionary in-vehicle entertainment service that will include commercial-free music and seamless, coast-to-coast US coverage. Ford vehicles are expected to be the first cars and trucks in the nation to have factory-installed satellite radio receivers. The exclusive agreement includes all seven Ford brands — Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Volvo. (Ford press release 6/15/99)
1999- October 26 – XM Satellite Radio signed an agreement with Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America, Inc., to design, develop, produce and market radios capable of receiving XM’s new band of radio. Mitsubishi Electric
Corporation, is the largest Japanese manufacturer of factory-installed car radios for the US market. On Oct. 12, Motorola signed a similar agreement. XM will create and package up to 100 channels of digital-quality music, news, sports, talk and children’s programming at its Washington, DC, broadcast facility. The service will then be uplinked to XM’s powerful satellites and transmitted directly down to vehicle, home and portable radios across the country. With an XM-capable radio and a small antenna, listeners everywhere in the continental United States will be able to enjoy their favorite XM channels. (XM press release 10/26/99)
2000 – On July 1, a Russian Proton rocket carrying a U.S. telecommunications satellite launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome. International Launch Services (ILS) successfully launched the Sirius-1 digital audio radio service satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit for Sirius Satellite Radio, of New York.