On February 13, 1956 Clevelanders woke up to a brand new radio sound with the call letters KYW. Gala programs that ended with a very lively cocktail party and dinner at the stately Hotel Statler marked this special occasion. In fact, over eight hundred leaders welcomed the all-new Westinghouse Broadcasting Company to Cleveland. If you think that was a big deal to Clevelanders, you are absolutely right. The former WTAM was one of this country’s oldest stations dating back more than thirty years. Located at 1100 on the AM dial, this 50,000 watt giant first gained national recognition in 1924 when it broadcasted the Republican Presidential Convention held in Cleveland. One of its jovial announcers Samuel E. (Eddy) Leonard (1897-1967) played an influential role in convincing the National Broadcasting Company to purchase WTAM in 1930. Owned and operated by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), NBC over the next twenty-five years broadcasted several very popular radio shows from its Superior Building studios. After the Second World War, NBC expanded its Cleveland operations to include WNBK-TV and WTAM-FM. Although this AM outlet remained profitable, the National Broadcasting Company, in the early ‘50s, envisioned a much larger network presence in the East Coast and that didn’t include its Cleveland station. Specifically, RCA’s Board of Directors concocted a broad business plan that among other things called for relocating its Cleveland radio and television stations to Philadelphia. The hefty business agreement hammered out by Philco and Westinghouse in 1953 that resulted in WBC purchasing Philadelphia’s Channel 3 set those wheels in motion.
In early 1954, the National Broadcasting Company first approached the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company about the possibility of exchanging stations. Under this agreement, NBC’s current broadcasting arm in Cleveland WTAM would relocate to Philadelphia while Westinghouse’s moneymaker KYW would leave Philly for the Lake Erie shores. What should have been a simple transfer rapidly became a complicate mess. We will soon see how that controversial trade not only affected both NBC and WBC; but also, altered the U.S. radio industry forever. Rumors of a two city station swap first surfaced in January 1955. Supposedly, NBC and WBC were about to reach an agreement that would lead to them exchanging those two outlets. However, those recent actions taken by Westinghouse’s higher ups seemed somewhat strange. After all, it had recently bought Philco’s profitable Philly affiliate WPTZ-TV for a whopping $8.5 million and was about to shell out an additional $9.75 million for Dumont’s Pittsburgh outlet WDTV. Why would Westinghouse want to move its Philly station to Cleveland at that moment? Had WBC bigger fish to fry who knew? But everyone in the radio industry recognized that something was afoot. The appointment that summer of Donald H. McGannon (1920-1984) as Westinghouse’s latest GE and VP meant that something major was about to happen. A top ranking member of the Dumont Television network, McGannon was known as a tough negotiator prepared to fight at any moment.
By the mid-‘50s, the five Westinghouse owned and operated radio stations had achieved an amazing first in U.S. broadcasting. They now reached 26% more homes than any other network. Clearly, its shrewd business managers had utilized their 50,000 watts outlets to successfully promote their many goods and services to an ever expanding audience base. In terms of KYW-Philadelphia, that radio station had successfully maintained high ratings for the last decade. In fact, its daytime ratings were legendary in the industry. KYW’s long-term success was not some fluke. As one of its proud advertisements so accurately described it “Best Buy Nationally, Best Buy Locally, Best by Any Standard of Measurement, KYW 1060 on Your Dial.” It represented a success story with an honored past and an equally promising future. Founded in Chicago by Edison Electric and Westinghouse Electric in 1921, KYW-Radio was this nation’s seventh oldest station. Relocating to Philly in 1934, it advanced rapidly to become a leading force in local broadcasting by the end of that decade. In fact, it ruled the airways in eastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware and southern New Jersey at the outbreak of the Second World War.
In order to better serve the growing needs of its expanding audience, KYW opened a new $600,000 broadcasting studios in 1938. Three years later, this leading Red Dot affiliate upped its power to 50,000 watts and relocated it further down the AM dial from 1020 to 1060. Regarded as a top radio station in the mid-‘50s, industry leaders thought that WBC would be foolish to give up that bread winner to the National Broadcasting Company. Westinghouse’s acquisition of WPTZ-TV in ‘53 seemed to demonstrate to nearly everyone that this up and coming, locally-oriented network was truly committed to Philly. Yet, persistent rumors said otherwise. By the early months of 1955 everyone in the U.S. broadcasting industry wanted to know exactly what WBC’s legal counsel had up its sleeves and what part RCA’s Board of Directors would play in it?
WBC’s future prospects were further assured when it’s President Chris J. Witting (1915-2005) announced the election of Don McGannon to its board along with the appointment of Joe Baudino (1904-1998) as its new Washington operations VP. Board members overwhelmingly believed that McGannon and Baudino were well-qualified for their new posts. Later that same summer, Westinghouse officials announced that its corporate headquarters would soon be moving from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Much of that network’s current success stemmed from its recent purchasing of WPTZ-TV in Philadelphia, KPIX-TV in San Francisco and WDTV-TV in Pittsburgh, PA. The Philly deal alone was worth $8.5 million while the San Francisco sale was valued at $6 million. The Pittsburgh station cost even more at $9.75 million plus stock options. As you might have already figured out, major networks like Westinghouse rarely purchase costly outlets if they didn’t plan to stay there.
However, those high priced ventures seemed of little consequence when measured against the NBC-WBC station swap that was recently submitted to the Federal Communications Commission. Much of it hinged on the National Broadcasting Company paying the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company a $3 million bonus upfront. Once that was resolved then NBC’s President Sylvester L. Weaver (1908-2002) and Westinghouse’s Chief Chris J. Witting (1915-2005) proceeded ahead with their plans. All that remained was for the FCC to approve the deal and that occurred on December 29, 1955. Financially speaking, that one-time KYW Class A rating stood at a firm $450 while the WTAM class AA rating was slightly higher at $520.
In terms of earnings, KYW-Philadelphia reported that its previous year’s gross income was $1 million while WTAM’s earnings stood at a highly respectable $900,000. Both leading networks admitted that perennial moneymakers such as KYW and WTAM, and not costly, large network-supported operations accounted for the bulk of their revenue. In both cases, those profitable networks spent most of their time either purchasing or selling locally-based broadcasting outlets or improving their properties. Common sense and practical needs most often dictated who got what. In this case, RCA-NBC’s extensive holdings in Lancaster, PA, Camden, N.J., Harrison, N.J. and Princeton, N.J. made it far more practical for that network to become the “prime stakeholder” in Philadelphia leaving Cleveland to WBC. Although nothing was said by Westinghouse officials regarding that arrangement, it apparently didn’t trouble them greatly. Its board members had previously discussed the possibilities of expanding their Midwest operations. Gaining a sizeable foothold in the growing Cleveland market might be a major step towards attaining that worthwhile business goal.
Realistically speaking, moving NBC’s top executives Lloyd E. Yoder (1903-1967), Samuel E. (Eddie) Leonard and Curtis Peck from Cleveland to Philadelphia made the greatest sense. Two WBC managers from Philadelphia Roland V. Tooke (b. 1909) and Frank A. Tooke (1912-1999) would handle the relocation efforts to Cleveland. If for some reason that did not happen as planned then NBC officials, with the blessing of its RCA board, intended to swap WTAM for another prime Philly station. Apparently, it was considering an exchange with the ABC affiliate there WFIL. Talk on the street strongly suggested that this transfer might involve more than just one station. If that occurred then the National Broadcasting Company planned to trade its Washington, D.C. outlet WRC for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company’s station in Boston WBZ. Acquiring WRC would have enabled Westinghouse Broadcasting to erect a new, high powered television antenna somewhere between Baltimore and Washington. Servicing two big markets from a single giant tower would have lowered broadcasting costs considerably. However, that idea was scuttled quickly.
The process of relocating the two stations continued throughout that summer. In term of actual wealth, NBC’s corporate assets for 1955 were an extraordinary $50.5 million. That excluded plant equipment which was worth an additional $43 million. Its $17.5 million in network reserves was equally impressive. NBC’s ledger also included $31.2 million in liabilities and $6.5 million in capital stock. Its reinvestment earnings alone exceeded the $39.6 million mark. In today’s world that would be worth more than $396 million. Not too shabby for a twenty-nine year old broadcasting network. Also, WBC’s revenues had grown substantially over the past two years from $10.9 million to $13.9 million. Its corporate expenses had climbed from $8.7 million and $10.6 million while its net income had increased from $1.15 million to $1.61 million. That would equal $4.6 million in today’s market. Any way you might look at it, both broadcasting companies were top investment choices then.
In terms of the actual stations, they owned NBC controlled WRCA–New York; WRC–Washington, D.C., WMAQ-Chicago, KNBC–San Francisco, and WKNB–New Britain, CT. WBC owned and operated KDKA–Pittsburgh, WBZ-Boston, KEX–Portland, OR and WOWO–Fort Wayne, IN. One of NBC’s principal ways to increase its revenue stream involved swapping lackluster outlets for potentially more profitable ones. RCA’s shrewd Board of Directors knew that the FCC would never allow any network to exceed its allotted number of company-owned stations. However, trading one outlet for another was very much legal and that’s what prompted this exchange. You might wonder if that deal contained an escape clause. Tentatively approved in May 1955, this agreement did indeed include one. Either network did have the legal right to pull out during the first year should it discover something wrong. However, the details for pulling out were very sketchy.
In the middle of these negotiations, one of the leading Buffalo, NY broadcasters WGR challenged it. Its legal representatives questioned the motives that had led the National Broadcasting Company recently to try and purchase one of its chief rivals WBUF-TV. WGR’s counsel argued that pending federal litigation against NBC’s parent corporation RCA would compel the Federal Communications Commission to flatly deny the petition. WGR-Buffalo further contended that the National Broadcasting Company had forced the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company to consent to this Cleveland-Philadelphia station exchange. WGR’s attorneys went so far as to suggest that two of WBC’s prime television stations would lose their NBC affiliation if present negotiations were not brought to a speedy conclusion. The possibility of foul play on the part of the National Broadcasting Company was to reappear numerous times over the next decade as the feds and other private corporations repeatedly attacked that network for its so-called unethical behavior. In the Buffalo case, NBC offered WBUF only $918,994. Many experts in the radio industry believed that was a low ball figure. Also, WGR legal staff wanted to know why the FCC had not demanded a more thorough assessment of WBUF’s financial worth upfront. Those concerns needed to be addressed immediately.
Don’t get me wrong, NBC’s lawyers repeatedly reassured WBC that this upcoming exchange was fair. After all, the number of new spot sales on WTAM-Radio had improved by an amazing 60% over the previous two years. That eye-opener led Westinghouse’s shrewd programmers to scrutinize WTAM’s programming very carefully and whenever possible retain its best DJs. About the recent charges made by WGR; Westinghouse’s legal team repeatedly claimed that NBC had never placed any undue pressure on it. After all, why would the National Broadcasting Company knowingly engage in such unlawful practices? WBC firmly believed that this deal would be profitable for both parties. On another note, Chris Witting proudly reported that his company owned and operated stations had seen their spot advertising revenues increase by 30% over the previous six month period with KYW-Philadelphia leading the pack with a healthy 32% gain. When all was said and done, Westinghouse Broadcasting’s earnings had improved by an astounding 60% over its previous high mark achieved in 1948.
Believing that an ounce of prevention was well worth a pound of cure, the FCC in July 1955 ordered a second investigation of the upcoming station trade. This time the commission would focus on the precise allegations made by WGR-Buffalo against NBC. Some critics contended that the federal regulatory agency wanting to quickly approve the NBC-WBC trade may have overlooked some critical evidence and that a second investigation into it might clear up any earlier wrong doing. As you might expect, the Federal Communications Commission made it abundantly clear that they would leave no rock unturned especially if the commissioners should discover that NBC had coerced WBC. A second in-depth investigation would undoubtedly reveal whether the public’s interests would best be served by such an exchange or not, and that was what really mattered. On another level, this inquiry might well determine whether NBC’s alleged drummed up actions did indeed represent a violation of the anti-monopoly provisions as set down in the Communications Act of 1934. Any antitrust litigation resulting from fraudulent activities on the part of the National Broadcasting Company would have automatically canceled the exchange.
Everything remained copasetic into the autumn of ‘55. KYW-Philadelphia continued to broadcast its favorite shows that included the popular Princeton University football games. Herb Carneal (1924-2007) and Mark Olds (1921-2009) provided the play-by-play coverage. Its skilled promoters through their cleverly worded newspaper ads, hyped merchandise and dazzling outdoor billboards promised their many sports listeners a super year for the fighting Princeton Tigers. That same autumn, the Westinghouse Board of Directors announced the appointment of Robert H. Teter (1919-2011) as KYW’s newest GM. Teter’s claim to fame was that he had single handedly increased that outlet’s spot sales to lofty new heights over the last five years. Company loyalty certainly had its rewards as Frank Tooke advanced up the corporate ladder to become its new Special Assignments Executive Officer at year’s end.
Pesky legal issues continued to plague the FCC’s follow-up investigation. One sticking point that remained unsettled concerned the allegation that the National Broadcasting Company had planned to end its affiliation with certain Westinghouse television stations if that swap had not happened. Certain commissioners believed that this trade was essential if RCA-NBC was determined to secure a greater foothold on the growing East Coast broadcasting market. WGR-Buffalo legal team claimed that WBC’s control of WTAM would ultimately result in a similar stranglehold over much of Northeast Ohio and Northwest West Virginia.
The FCC had hoped that this latest round of talks might bring to an end this confusion. Of course, it didn’t achieve that at all. On another very positive note, KDKA, KYW and WBZ in October 1955 received recognition from United Press International for two decades of dedicated news service. A month later, WBC’s advertising agency Free & Peters proclaimed that the network was “busting its buttons” now that it was this nation’s largest independent broadcaster. Its five radio outlets, including KYW, furnished the finest in entertainment, music, news and sports. Pleased with its new, sky-high earnings, Westinghouse’s Board of Directors appointed President Chris J. Witting as its latest Westinghouse Electric’s Consumer Products Division GM. Don McGannon was voted in as board president.
Always dedicated to broadcasting community service, WBC proudly covered an education conference hosted by President Eisenhower on November 28, 1955. KYW-Philadelphia received a great deal of praise from its many higher ups for its outstanding coverage of that event. Later that same month, NBC and WBC submitted their petition to the FCC for its final approval. Guess what, the commission approved it by a six to one vote. Robert T. Bartley (1909-1988) represented the only dissenting vote. He believed that the National Broadcasting Company had strong-armed the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company into accepting what he considered to be a lopsided deal.
In supporting this swap, the Federal Communications Commission temporally held back attempts by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prosecute RCA-NBC on charges of monopoly or restraint of trade. As everyone fully acknowledged, NBC was a powerful force in U.S. business. That network used its tremendous power to exert further pressure on the feds to end those allegations of wrongdoing. Its top leaders firmly believed that if those charges remained unchecked it might bring the whole house down. In retrospect, that seemed unlikely. However, odd makers at that time weren’t so sure. Stranger things had occurred within the radio industry in the recent past. Who knew what lay ahead?
However, that trade did give the National Broadcasting Company exactly what it wanted a prime Philly station without any kind of protest from the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. Such acquiesce on the part of WBC seemed somewhat out of character based on the fact that its negotiation team had a reputation for using hardnosed tactics to achieve its aims. Industry-wide leaders fully acknowledged that the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company was never a pushover at the bargaining table. One of the reasons its Board of Directors had hired McGannon in the first place was that he was known as a stubborn negotiator. Yet, in spite of the bravo when push came to shove, Westinghouse, led by McGannon, did very little to improve that broadcaster’s bargaining position with NBC. Perhaps he was outwitted by NBC’s skillful legal team, or maybe he thought that the exchange was equally beneficial for Westinghouse. Who knew?
Whatever the reasons behind this swap, NBC initially seemed to benefit the most from it. This being said, in order for this exchange to occur smoothly NBC had to first agree to retain its affiliation with those questionable WBC television stations. Westinghouse’s Board of Directors had made it crystal clear to NBC’s legal team that if it decided, in the last moment, to pull its affiliation from those outlets then the deal was off. Counsel representing RCA-NBC listened attentively to WBC’s demand and agreed to do it. Also, both parties knew full-well that this Philadelphia-Cleveland exchange might be viewed by some legal eagles as a golden opportunity for both networks to establish powerful regional broadcasting monopolies by allowing them to skirt around current FCC ownership restrictions. The fact that there was no official change in ownership did not mean that the exchange was completely above board. One tactic used by the National Broadcasting Company and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company to lessen its impact on competing broadcasters in both the Cleveland and Philadelphia areas was to convince the feds that the upcoming trade was only regional affected about 8% of the country’s population. That seemed reasonable given the high revenues currently being made by long established radio and television stations in those districts.
Limiting the number of stations an individual broadcasting company might own within certain regions was not something new to the 1950s. Although the number of owner and operated outlets has increased in numbers over the past seventy years, the Federal Communications Commission still imposes tough restrictions on broadcasters wanting to control numerous radio and television stations within the same market. Virtually all the accusations made against the National Broadcasting Company had vanished by the end of ‘56. The one exception was the claim that it had placed undue pressured on WBC to accept the exchange. Like a bad penny it kept popping up repeatedly. Part of the reason for that rested with the DOJ and the federal court system. In the DOJ’s case, it has always considered itself to be straight shooter intent on righting legal wrongs when they occurred. Its actions against NBC were visceral. The same might be said for the federal courts that repeatedly would not let go of that nagging issue. Both knew something was wrong and they were determined to get to the bottom of it ASAP.
As you might have already figured out, NBC officials expected this deal to yield high returns quickly and they were entirely correct. In fact, in less than a year corporate sales at NBC had increased by 15%. During that same period, that network had experienced a huge 29% increase in its earnings. WBC reported a more modest 5% gain in gross sales with a slight dip in radio sales. Again, KYW-Philadelphia led all other Westinghouse broadcasters with a striking 23% increase in its spot sales. WBC higher ups congratulated their Philly station for its significant increase in sales. In December 1955, NBC officially recognized WTAM-Radio for its productive Northern Ohio Sales Clinic. Hosted by Harold W. Waddell, this forum provided worthwhile dialogue that centered on future business prospects for those investing in local radio. Eleven hundred AM also aired an information program detailing the many federal benefits available for returning Cleveland veterans.
Last February, WTAM and WNBK-TV addressed some of the worst parking and traffic problems facing Clevelanders by broadcasting several programs on those issues. September, 1955, WTAM had sponsored an equally successful Red Cross blood drive. The year ended with Westinghouse’s Board of Directors announcing that Gordon W. Davis would be replacing Robert Teter as KYW’s GM. Teter left the station to become the new Executive Assistant to the WBC President. The Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 21, 1956 ran a special in-depth article that described in detail the many management changes that were about to occur at both outlets. George Cyr, Bill Dallmann, Bill Howard, Samuel E. (Eddie) Leonard, Jack McHale, Curtis Peck, Jean Strobel, Hal Waddell, Edward Wallace, Ted Walworth. Markie Wattenberg and Lloyd E. Yodis were going to Philly while Gordon W. Davis, Mark Olds. Sidney V. Stadig, E. Preston Stover, Rolland V. Tooke and G. Edward Wallis were coming to Cleveland. To honor their arrival in Cleveland, that city’s top business, civic and government leaders sponsored a daylong celebration on February 10, 1956. Festivities included floating 10,000 balloons over Cleveland Public Square. The all-new KYW call letters officially replaced WTAM three days later.
Being the new kid on the block meant that this radio broadcaster had to generate a tremendous amount of positive publicity very quickly. That was a major challenge for KYW’s shrewd management team. Radio listeners depended on certain programs being broadcasted from their favorite radio stations. Any changes in station ownership might or might not gain their immediate approval. Glowing ratings for the new owners at the start usually indicated that everything was okay with their present offerings, at least for the time being. However, any sudden drop in ratings might suggest that major changes were required right now. The many programmers and promoters working at the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company knew their efforts directed towards winning over local listeners depended on them mastering two goals from the day they started. First, they must try as much as possible to calm any apprehensions Cleveland listeners might have regarding this new station’s program lineup. That was achieved by carrying over as many of the programs, features and radio personalities from WTAM as possible before introducing their own new shows or superstars. Second, the new managers at KYW-Cleveland must uphold business principles and social values similar to their NBC predecessor even if Westinghouse’s actual approach towards local broadcasting might be different. Those objectives seemed attainable since KYW–Radio had always prided itself on providing its many fans with exactly what they needed and wanted. If they could accomplish that task in a smooth and timely fashion then they would win over the WTAM audience with no questions asked.
KYW’s newest GM Gordon Davis understood precisely what needed to be done and therefore did nothing to abruptly change the lineup. For the interim, this radio station would uphold the traditions of RCA-NBC by continuing to broadcast popular programs. Its initial programming covered a wide range of options everything from Shakespearean plays, farm reports and the latest album cuts at one end of the spectrum to symphony concerts, semi-classical music performances and reading aloud at the other. At the same time, this new station made sure that it continued to showcase some of WTAM’s favorite jocks along with its NBC shows, newscasts, sports and weather forecasts. The local press welcomed KYW to Cleveland by praising its many firsts in the broadcasting industry. For example, it was the first AM station in the Windy City to broadcast a Midwest college football game. It also presented the first life performance out of the Chicago Opera Company. That broadcaster had the distinction of being a part of the first national wire hookup.
To celebrate KYW’s debut in Cleveland, the managers at WBZ-Boston on February 14, 1956 extended their colleagues their best wishes. Its sister station was glad that KYW was on the beam and it hoped that it would continue to prosper in its new home for many years yet to come. Programming changes at KYW began in late February when a new radio personality named Wes Hopkins (1927-2008) entered the scene. A highly energetic disk jockey out of Trenton, N.J., Hopkins started playing records weekday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. KYW got a sizeable boost at the 5th Annual American Federation of Radio & Television Artists luncheon when its own Tom Field and Gene Martin were honored for their many years of devoted community service. As I’m sure you realize by now, the need to expand its advertising base remained a top priority for KYW-Radio from the first day it arrived in Cleveland. Beginning in March 1956, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company launched a new and exciting promotional campaign aimed towards increasing the amount of local advertising time ASAP. Its promoters repeatedly reaffirmed the many advantages awaiting those businesses that purchased large blocks of advertising time from these new 50,000 watts radio leader.
Catchy KYW jingles not only brightened daily radio broadcasts, but also, captured the attention of many of the station’s happy new listeners. Not surprisingly, they preceded each and every newscast, sports report, station break and weather forecast. Ever wonder who produced those jingles? Apparently, many companies marketed them; however, BENS and PAMS excelled above most others. Fortunately, KYW’s early popularity among its expanding listening audience went far beyond just playing catchy jingles on a regular basis. The arrival of happy go lucky DJs such as Malcolm (Big) Wilson (1924-1989) dramatically altered the tempo of Radio 11 forever. Entering Cleveland in May 1956, Big Wilson rapidly adapted his own special radio persona to fit the needs and wants of his growing fan-base. KYW-Radio needed a new kind of fun guy to attract new listeners and he certainly fitted the bill. Big Wilson not only played the coolest sounds in town; but also, invigorated his audience even on Cleveland’s dreariest days. A true showman he sang along with some of his favorite tunes or played them on his specially-adapted keyboard. Cleveland listeners loved his fresh new approach towards broadcasting as the station’s ratings went through the roof.
Called “The King of All Night Broadcasting” Joe Mulvihill’s late night show also premiered that July. His “1100 Club,” featured some of the “coolest sounds” in town. Setting aside KYW-Radio’s great success for just one moment, the many legal controversies surrounding this station exchange were not dying out as one might have expected. What exactly was going on? The House Antitrust Subcommittee led by the outspoken U.S. Representative from New York named Emanuel Celler (1888-1981), began investigating the alleged business monopolies that had been overwhelming many television stations as of late. His committee’s decisive action on that very matter led to an additional probe into the recent NBC-WBC trade. The bitterness whirling around those alleged claims of double dealing on the part of the National Broadcasting Company infuriated Celler’s committee. To no one’s surprise, the DOJ placed that hotly contended issue right in front of a federal grand jury who immediately subpoenaed all related documents.
That same July, KYW announced an important shake-up in its daytime radio lineup. Local programming would now replace NBC’s shows. Specs Howard (b. 1926) was one of the first jocks to be hired by KYW following that crucial announcement. His all-new one hour morning gig proved to be an instant hit with Clevelanders. Beginning on November 7, 1955, NBC began offering a new option to radio affiliates who might have been considered the possibility of broadcasting their own independent shows. Hosted by Margaret Truman and Mike Wallace and called “Weekday,” it was geared mostly for housewives. It featured such things as life performances by popular singers, special short-story readings and in-depth interviews. KYW’s highly capable news editor Sanford Markey (1914-1995) and his several ace reporters successfully covered both Presidential Conventions in the summer of ‘56. Unquestionably, the overpowering success of Westinghouse’s new programming took the U.S. radio broadcasting industry by storm. But, it symbolized much more than just a formable challenge to traditional network programming. WBC’s clever promotions had convinced even its harshest critics to desert their NBC radio shows for those exciting local offerings. KYW-radio markedly improved its ratings by consistently producing the kind of high quality daytime and nighttime shows that everyone seemed to need and want. However, promotional changes were not limited exclusively to new programming. In an attempt to reach out even further, KYW discerning promoters sponsored very pleasurable lake cruises on the “S.S. Aquarama” from July 26th through August 1st. Departing from Cleveland’s Lederer Pier, those “Kooler Kruises” enabled KYW-Radio listeners to intermingle with some of their favorite DJs. Banter with cool radio personalities would not be possible if the shows fans listened to originated from far off places such as New York, Chicago or Hollywood.
Eleven hundred on the AM dial also proudly sponsored a special girl’s fashion show on August 5, 1956 courtesy of the Sterling Lindner Davis Department Store. Those teens that modelled Sterling Lindner’s clothing automatically qualified for that summer’s “Miss Kooler Cleveland Contest.” During that autumn, KYW reaffirmed its commitment to all Clevelanders by continuing to provide them with the finest in entertainment, news and community service. Station officials backed up that guarantee by introducing several exciting and new programs to glowing reviews. Clevelanders welcomed new entities such as “Dimensions;” “Saturday Night Dance Party” and “Hi-Fi from Studio K” to the KYW lineup. All part of “the Spirit of ’56,” they symbolized the invigorating new sound that could only come from the brand new Radio 11.
Clever publicity campaigns developed by professional promoters like Janet K. Byers and Tom Garagen helped the station’s cause considerably. One of their many corny efforts called “KYW is Kooler” created quite a stir in the summer of 1956. The staff repeatedly yelled out “get kooler” as they paraded through downtown Cleveland wearing Bermuda shorts. The people in the streets yelled the same thing right back at them. Star spangled marketing ploys, like that, woke everybody up to this new local radio station. How could they not notice? The April ‘56 Nielsen ratings showed that such strategies did work. Twenty-five percent of the Cleveland listening audience now had their radios tuned every day to KYW between 6 a.m. and 12 Midnight. The same rating service in July reported that KYW-Radio led its nearest competitor by over 40% and that between 6 and 9 a.m. an average of 90,000 homes listened to the new, fast-paced sound that only 1100 AM could successfully produce. That 90,000 figure embodied an amazing 51% of Cleveland’s total listening audience. Effective programming such as that certainly bolstered Westinghouse’s corporate earnings in 1956. After all, everyone loves a winner and that includes the many successful advertisers who spent plenty of money on this new, top rated outlet. It’s very proud advertising agency said it best when it proclaimed that when “in Cleveland, no selling campaign is complete without the WBC station…KYW.” According to the Hooper Radio Audience Index, other locally-based radio broadcasters such as WERE and WGAR were rapidly losing their edge to this latest rival.
In October 1956, a longtime radio favorite of many Clevelanders named Bill Meyer departed KYW-Radio for the bright lights of Philadelphia. Big Wilson assumed his morning duties while a dashing young freelancer named Joe Finan (1927-2006) took over Wilson’s afternoon gig. After serving in the Second World War, Finan had joined the broadcasting team at WISR in Butler, PA. He later moved to Cleveland to become Channel 3’s part-time weatherman. KYW-Radio’s keen interest in education brought it together with the National Citizens Council for Better Schools to introduce a new, ten–minute radio segment called “Spotlight on Schools.” Aware of the latest breakthroughs in radio and television broadcasting led KYW cunning engineers to demand the latest IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Processing Machine. That technological marvel permitted its news team to process the upcoming election results faster than any other station in Cleveland. That November, Westinghouse’s President McGannon delivered an impassioned speech in front of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association. He stressed the practical aspects of embracing his network’s new combination music and news format. McGannon firmly believed that if radio programmers followed Westinghouse’s latest guidelines they would undoubtedly win. He also contended that independent broadcasters should leave news gathering, writing and reporting to their experts. They were far more competent than the many of the lackluster reporters broadcasting nationally. He further claimed that today’s radio audience demands far greater accountability from its local broadcasters than had been the case in years past.
Local DJs helped greatly in achieving those ambitious goals. McGannon strongly suggested that AM outlets should rely more on “The Block Programming Pattern,” as perfected by Westinghouse, to handle their many daytime programming needs. News, music and public service represented the leading hallmarks of this new approach towards broadcasting. McGannon concluded his speech by saying that news and information junkies have already seized the reins of nighttime broadcasting in many of his most prized radio stations and that WBC programmers deserved all the credit for creating such thought provoking new shows. Those offerings both amused and informed their listening audiences on a host of worthwhile topics. Apparently, McGannon’s convincing arguments struck a chord with those broadcasters as KYW-Cleveland continued to achieve high local ratings. Joe Finan, for example, swept the November ‘56 mid-day ratings with more than 30% of the listening audience. Additional fireworks were to light up in the national legal skies that December when the DOJ accused the National Broadcasting Company of conspiring with other networks to gain control of the nation’s five biggest markets. It further argued that NBC’s actions had not only weakened WBC’s competitive edge in technology; but also, consciously violated the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. In particular, Westinghouse Electric found it next to impossible to satisfy large orders of their technically-advanced equipment so essential in transmitting clear radio and television signals.
The NBC network denied all those allocations and more by arguing that the FCC had approved the ‘56 trade unconditionally, and that the DOJ was drumming up false charges to make itself look good in the public’s eyes. Meanwhile, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company continued to drag its feet throughout those pertinent discussions. In respond to KYW’s discontinuing its daily radio programming, NBC announced that WHK would now be carrying them. As part of a world tour, the General Director of the Iranian Ministry of Labor F. Aheiri paid KYW a special visit. He wanted to know more about how U.S. labor relations operated and how it influenced radio and television outlets such as KYW-Cleveland.
- “Philadelphia Story Again,” Broadcasting Telecasting, The Business Weekly of Radio & Television, January 17, 1955. ↵
- “Dumont’s McGannon Joins Westinghouse,” Broadcasting Telecasting, January 17, 1955. ↵
- “No Selling Without,” Broadcasting Telecasting, January 17, 1955. ↵
- “Day & Night More People Listen to KYW than any other radio station in the Philadelphia area” Broadcasting Telecasting, March 28, 1955. ↵
- “History of Philadelphia Radio Station 1060 KYW,” http://www.phillyradioarchives.com/history/kyw. ↵
- “Two WBC Executives Names to New Offices,” Broadcasting Telecasting, May 16, 1955. ↵
- “NBC, WBC Trade Properties in Cleveland, Philadelphia,” Broadcasting Telecasting, May 23, 1955. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “NBC, Westinghouse Seek Approval of Cleveland-Philadelphia Swap,” Broadcasting Telecasting, June 20, 1955 ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “WGR Asks Hearing on NBC UHF Buys and NBC-Westinghouse Station Swap,” Broadcasting Telecasting, June 27, 1955. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “NBC Owned Stations Report Spot and Local Gains for May,” Broadcasting Telecasting, June 27, 1955. ↵
- Tom O’Connell, “Those Whiting Girls to Play Themselves in C.B.S. Series,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 3, 1955. ↵
- “No Duress in NBC Exchange, Westinghouse Tells FCC,” Broadcasting Telecasting, July 4, 1955. ↵
- “Sensational Gains Cited for Westinghouse Radio,” Broadcasting Telecasting, July 25, 1955. ↵
- “Princeton KYW Hottest Football Package in the East!” Broadcasting Telecasting, August 29, 1955. ↵
- “KYW Names Teter General Manager,” Broadcasting Telecasting, October 3, 1955. ↵
- “FCC Wants Hearing on NBC-WBC Swap,” Broadcasting Telecasting, October 24, 1955. ↵
- “NBC-WBC Swap Hangs Fire,” Broadcasting Telecasting, July 25, 1955. ↵
- “Westinghouse Stations, Esso Mark ‘Reporter’ Anniversary,” Broadcasting Telecasting, October 31, 1955. ↵
- “WBC is busting its buttons-On,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 7, 1955. ↵
- “Chris J. Witting, Donald H. McGannon Appointed to New Westinghouse Posts,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 14, 1955. ↵
- “WBC Plans Heavy Coverage of White House Educ. Meet,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 14, 1955. ↵
- “NBC, Westinghouse Ask FCC to Approve Station Exchange,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 21, 1955. ↵
- “NBC-Westinghouse Swap Approved; FCC Stirs Justice Dept. Interest,” Broadcasting Telecasting, January 2, 1956. ↵
- “NBC, Westinghouse Ask FCC to Approve Station Exchange.” ↵
- “FCC Broadcast Ownership,” January 17, 2020, https://www.fcc.gov. ↵
- “WBC Radio Gross Up 5%; TV, 13.5%,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 28, 1953. ↵
- “WTAM Host to R&B Clinic,” Broadcasting Telecasting, December 5, 1955. ↵
- “WTAM Airing Show for Veterans,” Broadcasting Telecasting, December 5, 1955. ↵
- “Beep-Beep,” Broadcasting Telecasting, February 21, 1955. “100 Answer Radio Blood Appeal,” Broadcasting Telecasting, September 5, 1955. ↵
- “Davis Named Gen. Mgr. for KYW Philadelphia,” Broadcasting Telecasting, December 19, 1955. ↵
- George E. Condon, “NBC Pioneers Join Mass Exodus in Weekend Management Shift,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 21, 1956. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Westinghouse Co. Will Release 10,000 Balloons Next Week, Moscow Papers Please Copy,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 10, 1956. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Historical KYW Call Letters Make Bow on Monday,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 11, 1956. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “The Highlights and Sidelights of Radio-TV’s Past 25 Years,” Broadcasting Telecasting, October 15, 1956. ↵
- “WBZ-WBZA Boston, Aims Best Wishes to KYW Radio 1100 Television Channel 3,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 14, 1956. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Steve Allen Plays Himself in TV Comedy But He Wasn’t Meant To,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 17, 1956. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Bill Gordon, Warren Guthrie Lead Top Broadcasters of 1955 at Annual Awards Luncheon,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 2, 1956. ↵
- “Your Market is Moving!” Broadcasting Telecasting, March 19, 1956. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Producer Defends ‘Crossroads’ as Carefully Checked, Approved by Subject,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 6, 1956. ↵
- “It’s Sales, King-Size, as Mr. Big comes to KYW!” Broadcasting Telecasting, May 14, 1956. ↵
- “Now KYW Broadcasts all Nite Long 1100 Club Midnight to 6:00 A.M.,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 2, 1956. ↵
- “Celler Committee Probes NBC-Westinghouse Swap,” Broadcasting Telecasting, July 2, 1956. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- George E. Condon, “KYW to Drop All Daytime NBC Radio Programs at End of Week,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 11, 1956. ↵
- “KYW Radio Declares Saturday, August 11th Independence Day,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 10, 1956. ↵
- “Weekday on the NBC Radio Network,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 7, 1955. ↵
- “KYW’s Kooler Kruises,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 18, 1956. ↵
- “Campus Headlines for fall in SLD’s College Shops, Sterling Lindner Davis,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 5, 1956. ↵
- “Join the Celebration KYW Radio-1100 on Your Dial,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 10, 1956. ↵
- “KYW, Cleveland’s Newest Independent Radio Station Celebrates the Spirit of ’56,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 12, 1956. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Korny KYW Kooler Kampaign Proves Kwite a Komedy to Klevelanders,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 9, 1956. ↵
- “Time to Wake up to Independent KYW’s Bigger Programming! Bigger Signal! Bigger Listenership!” Broadcasting Telecasting, August 13, 1956. ↵
- “Nielsen Reports KYW Again Breaks the Sound Barrier as Cleveland’s Top Radio Station,” Broadcasting Telecasting, October 1, 1956. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Hooper Radio Audience Index, City Zone, Cleveland, Ohio, October 1956. ↵
- “Bill Mayer Going to Philadelphia; Finan Joins KYW,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 4, 1956. ↵
- “WBC Begins Education Series,” Broadcasting Telecasting, October 8, 1956. “Another Trail-blazing Public Service Program from WBC,” Broadcasting Telecasting, March 4, 1957. ↵
- Tom O’Connell, “Bob Hope Not Happy About Gag on Indians,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 21, 1956. ↵
- “Defense of Music-News Made Before N.J. Assn,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 12, 1956. ↵
- “Bellwether Breakaway: What Happens to Westinghouse?” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 26, 1956. ↵
- “Everyone Loves Joe Finan: Noon to 4 p.m.-KYW-Radio, Cleveland,” Broadcasting Telecasting, November 26, 1956. ↵
- “U.S. Fights RCA & NBC in Air Swap,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 1956. ↵
- “Network Revenues in 1955,” Broadcasting Telecasting, December 10, 1956. ↵
- “The Government’s Charges against RCA-NBC,” Broadcasting Telecasting, December 10, 1956. ↵
- “The RCA-NBC Answer to the Charges,” Broadcasting Telecasting, December 10, 1956. ↵
- Tom O’Connell, “WHK Ties into new NBC News Network,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 8, 1956. ↵
- “Iranian Labor Chief Eyes Conditions Here,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 18, 1956. ↵