History of Radio 1934

About the history of radio in 1934, the rise of news programs in radio including a look at Walter Winchell, Lux Radio Theater debuts.



* Radio's first incentive contract went to Eddie Cantor, who picked up an extra $200 for every point over 20 his show scored on the Crossley ratings.

* Greta Garbo, virtually the only film star of the period to refuse to appear on radio, turned down an offer of $25,000 for a single guest shot.

* The leading network, NBC-Red, had not a single daily news series. NBC-Blue had only Lowell Thomas. Boake Carter broadcast for CBS, as did Edwin C. Hill, with occasional nonsponsored comments from H. V. Kaltenborn and others, always in "off" or unimportant time periods.

Most sponsors did not want news programs, despite the fact that news bulletins were available to local stations (for a fee, of course) from Associated Press, United Press, and Independent News Service.

They were not, however, available to the networks. Thus the networks had to gather their own news. This effort was pioneered by A. A. "Abe" Schechter of NBC, originally hired as a publicity writer. CBS competed by hiring Paul W. White, a former UP editor, to set up its news organization.

Amazingly, when CBS news analyst H. V. (Hans von) Kaltenborn went to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War, he paid all his own expenses. The 58-year-old Kaltenborn gave two unsponsored newscasts a week--at $50 each--during "off" time slots. He had been with CBS for six years, but he had never been considered a good commercial investment.

Not too many years later, however, Walter Winchell reported weekly earnings above $5,000. Though Winchell broke many important news stories, his program--with his distinctive rapid-fire delivery--concentrated mainly on personalities and gossip. During his famous opening--"Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships and clippers at sea, let's go to press--FLASH!"--he kept up a fierce tapping of telegraph keys, which lent drama and momentum to his 15-minute Jergens Journal.

By the end of 1934, however, several potential sponsors began to express interest in sponsoring news broadcasts.

There was talk of a four-time-a-day news program to be called the Esso Reporter. UP and INS began to sell their news to both radio stations and to the networks, and soon AP followed suit. News broadcasting grew. As Hitler mobilized and Mussolini threatened, the networks stepped up their news-gathering facilities. Half-reluctantly, they grew into news media.

Oct. Louella Parsons, pioneer movie columnist for the Hearst chain, persuaded stars to appear free on her new radio interview show, Hollywood Hotel, until the Radio Guild stepped in four years later to ban gratis performances.

Lux Radio Theatre premiered this month, too, from New York, only to move two years later to Hollywood, where Cecil B. de Mille produced and hosted the show.

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