History of the Major Television Networks NBC Part 2

About the history of the major television network NBC or the National Broadcasting Company, behind the scenes and the networks corporations and big business ties.



Behind the Tube: The National Broadcasting Company (both the radio and TV networks) is a subsidiary of the mammoth Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which also makes television and radio sets, TV cameras and broadcasting equipment, record players, and records and is a major defense contractor for electronics products. RCA also owns the Hertz Car Rental system, the Random House Publishing Company and its paperback branch Ballantine Books, Banquet Foods, and other subsidiaries.

NBC owns five of its affiliates (the maximum allowed by government regulation), the stations in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Cleveland.

RCA reported sales of over $5 billion in 1976, with profits in excess of $150 million. Its television network (including all affiliates) sold over $600 million in advertising that year.

NBC has a separate organizational setup, with headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, 10020.

Because of its ties with RCA, NBC is considered the network "most closely interwoven with the American business establishment."

Like the other two major networks, NBC is first, last, and always a profit-oriented business defined (by Gaye Tuchman in The TV Establishment) as a "corporation that seeks stations as affiliates, then leases air time from its affiliates and sells portions of that leased time to commercial advertisers."

First in its corporate mind is the selling of "prime time" (from 8:00 to 11:00 P.M.), which commands up to $90,000 per minute from advertisers (with about 30% of the profits going to affiliates).

NBC has been much praised for its innovative theatrical productions, for the professionalism and credibility of its news department, and for its ability (largely because of size and financing) to give blanket coverage to major events like national political conventions.

As the most business-oriented of the networks, NBC has received more than its share of criticism for being too profit-oriented. "American television," says Timothy Green in The Universal Eye, "is chiefly in the business of selling goods."

"The stockholders in a broadcast corporation do not ask for better programs every year but, rather, for larger profits," comments Les Brown in Television: The Business behind the Box.

The result, say critics, has been a definite loss of quality and an increase in quantity of advertising. (Despite FCC regulations which supposedly limit advertising to a maximum of 16 minutes per hour, viewers now find themselves bombarded with what seems to be an endless series of not only commercial ads but also "billboards" lauding advertisers at the opening and closing of each show, network logos, public service spots, network promotions, station promotions, and all sorts of extra titles and credits. One recent air check of the seven minutes between the end of one show and the beginning of another revealed a total of 37 different messages.)

NBC (perhaps because of its accountability to RCA) has long been in the habit of espousing a safe, patriotic, business-oriented political and social view. One former NBC White House correspondent complained that he had become no more than a personal messenger boy between RCA executives and Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Plans for important public affairs programs are time and again squelched by network business executives. Les Brown reports that "at NBC the head of sales controls selection of all specials, rarely accepting one that is not already presold to a sponsor."

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