Chapter 4: Broadcasting Honesty the KYW Way
KYW-Radio became an even more vital component of the Greater Cleveland broadcasting scene beginning in the spring of 1959. It began when that station sponsored an impromptu record hop on May 22nd. Its proceeds went towards the Vince Wayne Memorial Fund. That popular singing star had died in a freak accident the previous day. Westinghouse was very pleased when the Radio Division of the Association of Broadcasters elected Gordon Davis as its new VP. On numerous occasions, Cleveland charities thanked KYW for its heart felt contributions and its sponsoring of numerous successful events that included a party for retarded children. The “Nice Things” promotional campaign, mentioned earlier, was one of many successful efforts coordinated by the talented Janet K. Beyers. Another innovation she came up with was “New Horizons.” Considered a revolutionary breakthrough in talk shows, it spread like wildfire throughout the broadcasting industry. It permitted studio audiences to actively participate in discussions that were happening right in front of them. That May, the station’s management asked if any of its advertisers might be interested in sponsoring a full day of programming once each week on KYW-FM. They thought that some smaller Cleveland-based companies with more limited advertising budgets might jump at this chance. Like its AM sister station, KYW-FM symbolized a growing Westinghouse outlet with a vital listening base. Its officials argued that the big difference between those two outlets was that the advertising costs on the FM side of the dial were much less. That would have meant more bangs for the buck for shrewd businesses that were willingly to purchase large amounts of advertising time there. The idea of buying large blocks of advertising time on its local FM station might have seemed reasonable on paper; unfortunately, not a single business bought into it. However, that did not stop Westinghouse from following up on other leads intended to bring in more revenue.
Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, KYW-Radio habitually set Cleveland’s broadcasting community on its ear. Through its extremely clever advertising, targeted promotional campaigns and strict policy of playing more music per hour, this emerging powerhouse had all but eliminated its chief competitor WERE-1300 AM from the ratings race. It’s specially-devised “formula programming” that repeatedly spotlighted its many “super cool” DJs and catchy jingles caught nearly everyone in the Cleveland radio business off–guard. Its rivals found it next to impossible to compete against KYW although WJW did briefly try to challenge it with its own version of Top 40 radio. That kind of cut throat competition did little to galvanize other less competitive Cleveland radio broadcasters such as WDOK or WGAR. They continued to play middle-of–the–road music aimed primarily towards more conservative listeners. In May 1959, KYW’s nationally-acclaimed program called “Traffic Court” found itself engaged in its own legal fight for its life. Repeatedly attacked by the Cleveland Bar Association along ethical grounds, that show now faced its own day of judgment in the Parma Municipal Court. Former Cleveland Mayor and U.S. Senator Thomas A. Burke (1898-1971) chairing the proceedings. Judge Burke ruled that “Traffic Court” had violated Municipal Canon # 35 which prohibited news gathering organizations and services, such as KYW, from interfering in anyway with court proceedings. He ordered the program stopped immediately. That same month, KYW’s leading daytime celebrity Joe Finan spoke at the annual International Radio Programming Seminar & Pop Music Disc Jockey convention held in Miami Beach. His talk focused on “What Is a Personality Today.”
At the same time, WBC’s President Don McGannon attacked the disparaging remarks recently made against the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company by NBC’s Radio Executive VP Matthew J. Culligan (1919-2002). Culligan had claimed that WBC represented little more than a group of loosely-affiliated, undisciplined radio and television stations. McGannon roared back by saying that his radio and television outlets did not have to follow the same kind of inflexible rules and regulations imposed by large networks like RCA-NBC. He concluded by saying that individual Westinghouse stations exercised full autonomy when it came to choosing their programs. That meant that station managers and not big city wigs determined the kind of network shows that best suited their listeners. U.S. Radio in its July ‘59 issue addresses a perplexing problem that continued to pester the commercial radio industry. Were local radio personalities first and foremost performers or businessmen? Recent studies indicated that playing records and engaging in clever banter with their listeners was only one aspect of their daily job responsibilities.
Both local and regional advertisers repeatedly said that the nimbleness displayed by radio’s most successful jocks especially when it came to peddling vast quantities of merchandise over the airways had helped to boost weekly sales figures enormously. Not only did their banter sell vast amounts of items; but also, convinced their listeners to purchase those same goods over and over again. Joe Finan took that that job responsibility a step further to suggest that radio celebrities should work closely with local charities to ensure future listeners. Increased corporate earnings and top ratings seemed to go hand and hand for those stations that did the right thing. Finan concluded that being a respected community leader would become even more important for broadcasters in the immediate years ahead as the wants of their fans changed.
The second half of 1959 was a defining moment for both KYW-Cleveland and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. It began that July when KYW’s much acclaimed Program Manager Mark Olds resigned to join the coveted ranks of one of this nation’s most respected independent broadcasters New York’s own WNEW. Bud Wendell assumed his role. That same summer, the FCC established an October 1st deadline for the Philco Corporation to present its closing arguments regarding the WRCV license renewal case. If that company’s objectives did indeed have merit then the regulatory commission might well reconsider reversing its earlier stance on the ‘56 NBC-WBC trade. That August, Gordon Davis left KYW-Cleveland for a similar position at Westinghouse’s newest radio outlet in Chicago WIND. WOWO’s Program Manager Carl Vandergrift (d. 1991) took over his duties with Edward Wallis replaced him in Ft, Wayne. IN. Prior to coming to Cleveland, Wallis had been the Supervisor of Sales and Publicity at WIP–Philadelphia. He also worked in sales promotions at two other leading television leaders in Philadelphia WPTZ and KYW.
Increasingly, Westinghouse turned to Radio-11 to groom some of its brightest stars and that had included Gordon Davis. Cleveland’s media praised Davis for his many years of devoted service. It was through his diligent efforts that “Program PM” had become the success story so envied by others in the field. Furthermore, his belief in the future of FM broadcasting led him to invest over $150,000 to expand KYW-FM. Davis’s efforts produced a highly respected classical music station. Westinghouse programmers sincerely hoped that KYW-FM’s new, handpicked coordinator Leslie Biebi would continue to uphold that same tradition of excellence first begun by Gordon Davis. Cleveland Plain Dealer radio and television columnist George Condon (1917-2011) let the cat out of the bag in August 1959 when he announced that “Program PM” would be cut from two hours to one and that its new host would not be Specs Howard. He also wrote that Wes Hopkins would soon be replacing Gloria Brown and her Mid-Day program. Although Westinghouse officials had thrown around the possibility of creating a new women’s program aimed at showcasing Brown’s many talents as a broadcaster nothing came of it. Other changes in the KYW lineup that autumn saw Wally King reassigned to the 6 to 10 p.m. slot while Dick Reynolds resumed his late night assignment. Specs Howard played records from 11 p.m. to Midnight. The station’s “New Horizons” service offered guided bus tours to some of Cleveland’s favorite landmarks. All those proceeds from those special tours went towards purchasing historic markers.
On the positive side of the financial ledger, the station’s gross sales had improved slightly over a year earlier. Radio advertising during the first six months of ‘59 was 10% higher than the same period in ‘58 while television sales had grown by 6.3 %. Over that same time period, the number of new advertising accounts had risen by 18.2%. WBC’s national spot TV advertising for the first half of 1959 had increased by 14.1% with local billings improving by 19.1%. Radio sales were also at a new all-time high. They saw a 3.4% increase that June over the previous month’s high level. That August, KYW-Radio along with WERE-Radio strongly recommended that Cleveland voters approve the proposed Cuyahoga County Charter reform bill. Rumors had begun circulating that same month that a possible settlement was pending that would bring to an end the recent controversy over the ’56 NBC-WBC swap. Supposedly, NBC’s legal counsel led by a sharp legal mind Bernard Segal had been working closely with the U.S. Antitrust Division to reach some kind of workable compromise.
The September 1959 issue of U.S. Radio featured a highly inflammatory article that lambasted the commercial radio–industry’s blasé attitude when it came to broadcasting a wide selection of the latest released recordings. Experts in the field led by Mitch Miller of Columbia Records, Joe Reisman of Roulette Records, Charles Green of RCA-Victor Records and Henry Meyerson of Decca Records argued that many AM stations were mistakenly catering to a small group of highly vocal listeners. In pursuing that strategy, they were essentially ignoring a much larger, perhaps less organized group of equally loyal fans. Those record executives then proceeded to point out that $.80 of every dollar spent on new recordings went towards the purchasing of albums and not 45s. If that was true, then why did so many commercial AM stations play more and more Top 40 hits rather than the many other popular recordings currently available? Putting aside for just a moment the never ending complaints of increasing corporate expenses and mounting competition the answer to that baffling question was analogous to the growing number of noisy teens and their very narrowly focused buying habits. Although they rarely purchased higher priced albums, preferring instead to buy cheap 45s, teenagers in the late ‘50s were anything but shy when it came to demanding that their favorite stations play more and more rock and roll music often at the expense of other popular songs.
That insistent for more and more rock and roll music should not have negated the responsibilities of local radio outlets to equally serve the growing needs of their more even tempered, often well-heeled listeners. Those record executives made it abundantly clear that young adults, and not teens, truly represented the bread and butter of the U.S. record industry and that commercial radio should have more ardently supported their demands to hear “better quality” music played over those same stations. Those critics of rock and roll music went a step further to suggest that local broadcasters should look beyond the hype currently being spread around by Top 40 stations to find out what was really going on in the world. They claimed that if imaginative programming, once the bloodline of U.S. commercial radio, had been allowed to grow naturally over the years, without having to cope with the pressures exerted on it from the tenacious rock and roll music industry, it might have meaningfully lessened the total impact of today’s Top 40 radio. If, in fact, steps had been taken by leading record companies to nip Top 40 in the bud then most commercial stations would have been playing a much broader range of popular music than they presently do. That would have created a new class of discerning radio listeners, people who really valued high quality music over the tedious sounds of late ‘50s rock and roll. As everyone knew, recently developed multi-track recordings of some of the best popular music of the day were designed specifically for the fine crafted, new sound systems.
Many advocates of rock and roll music believed that the sudden opening of the flood gates to a wide variety of music choices was inappropriate. It didn’t make a great deal of sense to them. Supporter of rock and roll further claimed that local radio stations that preferred to play a wider assortment of popular music would soon discover that their profitable advertisers were leaving them in droves for the more exciting Top 40 broadcasters. The recording executives interviewed in this article said that the exact opposite was true. Those AM outlets playing a variety of top quality recordings were experiencing a surge in new advertising opportunities while those that didn’t ascribe to it were losing out. They concluded that the run-of-the-mill rock and roll music currently being broadcasted on many radio outlets nationwide failed to meet the rising expectations of their more sophisticated audience. The former GM at WBZ-TV Franklin A. Tooke became the latest KYW VP. Before settling in Boston, Tooke had served as the GM at WOWO-Ft. Wayne, KDKA-Pittsburgh and KYW-Philadelphia. A recent consent decree filed by the DOJ demanded that NBC sell its Philly station before December 31, 1962. Although the National Broadcasting Company agreed to comply with this federal demand, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company’s Board of Directors remained uncertain as to how that decision might affect the future of its Cleveland outlet. The U.S. Department of Justice further stated that RCA-NBC’s actions directly violated the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It concluded that NBC’s recent activities had indeed weakened Westinghouse’s capabilities to compete efficiently in the growing Philadelphia market place. This was true especially when it came to selling high volumes of its most technically-advanced products. Apparently, NBC strategists fully intended to eliminate Westinghouse as a major local competitor.
At a September 1959 banquet that climaxed a three-day public service conference Don McGannon announced the upcoming distribution of free spot advertisements dedicated to education. As he explained it, those ads stressed the many problems presently facing education in general and higher education in particular. This event successfully brought together some of this nation’s most talented educators. Heated discussions continued industry-wide regarding the consequences that might unfold from that DOJ consent decree. One of its provisions, flatly rejected by RCA-NBC officials, stated that it could no longer exchange or purchase another radio and television outlet without first getting the permission of the U.S. Justice Department. NBC attorneys claimed that such a restriction would not be binding in the courts.
Also, the National Broadcasting Company could no longer apply any undue pressure on another broadcaster when it came to either acquiring or trading stations. NBC’s legal counsel made it clear that it had only agreed to the DOJ’s consent decree because it permitted its parent company the Radio Corporation of America to retain all of its present licenses. Besides fighting the U.S. Justice Department might result in that network losing a great deal more than just a single company-owned station. Also, there was a distinct possibility that the consent decree might be overturned by the federal court and especially if serious legal conflicts were to suddenly flare up between the DOJ and FCC. As you might have expected, it also prohibited NBC from securing another Philly television station. Finally, the U.S. Department of Justice’s consent decree prevented the National Broadcasting Company from representing other of its affiliates through its Spot Sales Service. Of course, all of the provisions spelled out so carefully in this ’59 consent decree might be thrown out by subsequent federal appeals. But first, NBC’s shrewd legal staff would have to prove that the network had not deliberately threatened other broadcasters that had rejected similar station exchanges due to its rigidly enforced requirements. The DOJ further reserved the legal right to examine any records belonging to the National Broadcasting Company whenever warranted. This consent decree was scheduled to run for nine years beginning on the day that RCA-NBC divested itself of its current Philadelphia station.
With the hope of dramatically expanding its local listening audience, WHK-Radio picketed one of Big Wilson’s remote broadcasts that autumn. Picketers said “the new ‘HK is unfair to other stations because it sounds so good.” Westinghouse retaliated with signs saying that “KYW welcomes Cleveland’s number two station. Glad you were listening to KYW.” In October ‘59, the Cleveland Police Department participated in an exciting, new promotion sponsored by KYW-Radio. Hoping to lessen the anxiety of commuters, a new two way hookup between a police helicopter and that broadcaster began reporting traffic congestion during peak hours. The station sponsored an Election Day phone bank that was staffed by the Cuyahoga County League of Women Voters. Those volunteers furnished callers with important information they needed to know before voting. That autumn, KYW’s respected Editorial Research Supervisor Neil (Mickey) Flanagan was promoted to become KYW’s latest Radio News Supervisor while its Television Producer Bart Clausen took over Flanagan’s former duties.
WBC also introduced a whole new concept in marketing designed to assist discerning spot advertisers who wanted to tap into the many growing suburban markets ASAP. Called “Megatowns,” the fifteen available urban areas represented approximately 50% of this nation’s biggest cities. Using Pittsburgh as its prime example, Westinghouse promoters pointed out that one of their inexpensive radio or television ad could reach more potential buyers than that area’s fifty newspapers combined. That marketing ploy proved quite successful. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, insightful radio stations in growing urban settings like Cleveland constantly broke all previous sales records, and why not? Like so many other popular outlets of the day, KYW-Radio not only sponsored exciting local events and hosted numerous guest appearances by their popular jocks; but also, repeatedly presented electrifying publicity campaigns. All those highly energetic daily activities not only kept KY-11 in the spotlight; but also, enabled it to diligently sell large blocks of spot advertising daily. In fact, many companies relied time and time again on KYW’s insightful promoters to assist them in attaining their monthly sales quotas. As the unabashed promos of the day said “Give KYW the chance and it will deliver!” Such was the case when a discerning local car dealer named Del Spitzer (1933-2019) first approached KYW’s promotion’s team for help in the autumn of 1956. Working together, they came up with a very effective marketing strategy that certainly stimulated new car sales for Spitzer’s. It was called the “Battle of the Dealerships.”
Begun in 1957, it pitted Joe Finan against Wes Hopkins in a head–to-head competition to sell the greatest number of new cars. Finan represented Spitzer Ford and Hopkins Spitzer Dodge-Plymouth. Each DJ ran remote broadcasts from his respected agency. Bottom line, their constant chatter brought enormous attention to both dealerships. In the end, Finan won the contest and was rewarded with a $900 trip to Acapulco, Mexico. Del Spitzer was indeed a happy man. Sales at Spitzer Ford in July 1959 increased by more than 30% over ’58 figures while Spitzer Dodge-Plymouth posted 20% sales gains. Zany advertising stunts, like that, apparently paid off well especially for businesses that depended on high sales volume such as Spitzer’s. From that point forward, Del Spitzer ran an average of fifty to seventy radio spots a week on his favorite radio station KYW-Cleveland.
Job advancements were a regular thing at KY-11. One of the biggest announcements in that regards occurred that November when Gil Faggen, the former Director and Producer of “Program PM,” became that station’s latest Music Policy, Special Programming and Spot Sales Development Director. Responding to audience requests for more cultural programs led KYW-FM to begin to read poems on-air. On the AM side, its latest promotion “KYW the Station with the Million Dollar Sound” unquestionably appealed to its listener’s greedier side. Developed by Janet K. Byers, this off-beat contest featured a $100,000 life insurance policy and seven days of luxury living for its lucky winners. Disc jockeys chauffeured around in fancy limousines gave passer byes 100,000 in fake million dollar checks. Another campaign enabled two winners to either walk through a bank fondling $1 million in cash or live like millionaires for a week. Growing complaints against its new one-hour format, led KYW to restore “Program PM” to its two hour slot at year’s end. The new two hour format began with Carl Stern answering phone calls while Pat Patterson talked sports. That was followed by Stern, Big Wilson and Tom Manning talking about the day’s events. Wilson and Manning may have been well-known celebrities but Carl Stern was not. A top-rated announcer with a commanding presence, he soon gained a substantial following at KYW. In 1967, Carl Stern left Cleveland for NBC-News. He remained there for many years.
A darker side of the rock and roll music business began to unfold in late 1959. It shocked both the radio-industry and its many followers. Regrettably, KYW was one of a number of commercial radio stations caught in its web of lies and deceit. Surprisingly, the public was pretty much unaware of what was going on until after Thanksgiving. In fact, the month of December began quite normally at KYW-Radio with its many listeners enjoying the traditional lighting of the enormous Christmas tree at Sterling, Lindner Davis Department Store downtown. Joe Finan, Wes Hopkins, Wally King, Big Wilson and Gloria Brown participated in the festivities. However, the season’s cheerful mood rapidly soured when on December 4, 1959 Westinghouse announced the firing of Joe Finan and Wes Hopkins two of KYW’s most popular jocks. Radio officials claimed that their firings resulted from their failure to follow company guidelines regarding the accepting of favors, gifts or money from various record companies and distributors. It was “payola.”
As mentioned earlier, many record companies and distributors in the mid to late ‘50s had repeatedly showered select DJs with all kinds of special incentives if they agreed to play certain of their 45s repeatedly over others. The feds did not ban this practice as long as those radio personalities did two important things upfront. First, they had to report and then pay to Uncle Sam any back taxes owed from receiving such gifts. Second, those same jocks had to tell their fans that they were being paid by outsider groups to play certain recordings at specific times and that those records were not currently on their station’s playlist. Easy enough to do; yet, few of them complied.
In both Finan and Hopkins cases, their attorney H. Donald Zimmermann said that their dismissals were uncalled for and that KYW officials should have taken suitable steps to protect them from the onset. He further argued that since that outlet had no formal policy regarding payola then they should not have been punished for participating in it. Apparently, the WBC board had discussed the idea of establishing a formal policy pertaining to payola; however, it had not taken any formal action on it. Whatever personal feelings one might have had regarding their firing really didn’t matter much to Westinghouse’s higher ups. They spent very little time deliberating their fate. “Finan and Hopkins did the crime they must pay the price.” What most concerned the Board of Directors was how best to minimize the long-term damage created by their latest actions. All agreed that firing them was the quickest and simplest solution. It would definitely send out a clear message to others who might want to engage in similar activities in the future. In less than a blink of an eye, Specs Howard replaced Joe Finan as Channel 3 weatherman while Wally King shouldered Finan’s very popular afternoon gig. Specs Howard also took over Wes Hopkins’s show.
The widening federal probe into payola activities resulted in the prosecution of roughly twenty DJs. That included several Westinghouse Broadcasting jocks working at WBZ–Boston as well as a host of national record companies and regional distributors. Both Finan and Hopkins wasted little time before launching breach of contract suits against the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. Again, their lawyers had hoped that WBC would reinstate them ASAP. Both jocks repeatedly claimed they had done nothing wrong. They were paid consultants who were asked by reputable recording companies and distributors to pick out potentially profitable 45s from their extensive record collections. Their keen business instincts in those matters had proved invaluable to the record industry in the past why couldn’t they do the same thing now and in the foreseeable future?
Nineteen Fifty-Nine concluded with 1100 AM proudly broadcasting its one hour review of that year’s top events. The ‘60s ushered in a brand new era of broadcasting for KYW-Radio. It began with Carl Stern and his ace reporter Paul Sciria hosting a revamped “Program PM.” Many listeners truly believed that this Westinghouse outlet was truly their own personal station and as such they had the right to make a slew of suggestions that they believed would dramatically improve its depth and quality. Such was the case when a group of high school students from Independence, OH asked station officials to restore Dick Reynolds to his Midnight gig. They didn’t like his replacement Dave Hawthorne. The pressing need to keep costs down and revenues high while maintaining high ratings and honoring the contracts of their prized jocks often encouraged managers to ignore off-the-wall requests like the one recently submitted by those high school students. However, that didn’t prevent KYW program coordinators from radically altering their daily lineup whenever necessary. Just such a development affected the 10 to 11 p.m. time slot. The newly expanded “Program PM” meant that something else had to give somewhere else. In this case, the hour long show “Big Jazz” was cut in half. Its recent drop in the ratings led to that action.
Joe Finan and Wes Hopkins served as the key note speakers at the January ‘60 meeting of the Cleveland Jaycee’s. Both defended their recent actions by claiming that nothing in their contracts specifically forbade them from engaging in such activities. Finan blamed Cleveland Mainline Distributor for his difficulties. He said that Mainline had thoughtlessly placed his consulting fees under “payola.” Finan further argued that the station’s managers fully knew what he and Hopkins were up to and they said nothing about it. He believed that this recently drummed up scandal had given KYW-Radio the golden opportunity it was looking for to clean its house without causing a public stir. In this instance, cleaning house meant firing some of its highest–paid celebrities which of course meant them. Finan then went on to say that there was nothing inherently wrong with Top 40 radio. It was neither corrupt nor immoral. He reminded everyone to not heed high-brow corporate leaders within the music industry itself who repeatedly berated Top 40 programming for their own gains. The first round of federal hearings on payola ended later in ‘60. Penalties included $10,000 fine and prison time. One of the new remedies adopted by many AM stations allowed their business managers and not radio personalities, to determine which records received airplay and which ones didn’t. Rational thinking like that allegedly ending future illegal activities by unscrupulous local jocks. Payola has periodically resurfaced in commercial broadcasting over the last sixty years but not with the same intensity.
At the end of January 1960, the radio-industry learned for the first time that the Board of Directors at RKO–General (RKO) had approached RCA-NBC about exchanging its Philadelphia station WRCV for RKO’s Boston equivalent WNAC radio and television. Part of that proposed arrangement also called for transferring WRC, the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., to RKO. Once RCA-NBC successfully secured a new foothold within the Boston market, it planned to purchase another prime Philadelphia outlet. If that transpired it would have enabled the National Broadcasting Company to have blanketed control of the East Coast broadcasting market running anywhere from southern Maine to northern Virginia. Also, RKO’s attorneys hoped their actions might divert the attention of the feds away from the controversial ’56 swap and the recent DOJ consent decree.
If the feds had accepted the RKO-General petition unconditionally, it would have radically altered commercial broadcasting within one of our nation’s largest markets. Furthermore, if the Justice Department’s consent decree was quashed by the Federal Communications Commission that would have paved the way for similarly station exchanges nationwide. However, if the commissioners absolutely rejected the proposal that might have been the first in a series of steps that would have eventually led to the breakup of two of this country’s largest radio networks. It was a gamble full of potentially devastating business consequences, and yet, RKO’s legal counsel took it on. Everyone speculated as to how the federal courts, the DOJ and the FCC might react to this previously unexpected petition. But, the majority of odd makers in 1960 were more than willing to bet against it. Most of them thought that RKO petition would be hopelessly stuck in the federal court system for years. If that occurred that would not be good for either RCA-NBC or RKO-General.
Eager to increase its number of early evening listeners led KYW to incorporate an existing outside radio show into its daily lineup on January 25, 1960. Formerly broadcasted over WDOK-Radio, the “Hi-Fi Club” successfully switched from its old haunts at 1260 AM to its new digs at 1100 AM. Heard weekdays from 8 to 9 p.m. and again on Saturday at 9 p.m., it was geared explicitly for teenagers. Acting as both judge and jury, a different panel of teens every week selected the particular records they wanted to hear on KYW that evening and the next day. Setting aside the exciting changes affecting KYW’s daily broadcasts, what exactly was going on in the legal world at that moment?
The initial NBC–RKO discussions focusing on a possible station exchange re–emerged in May ‘60. This time NBC stoked the flames of this controversy by announcing that it planned to sell its popular Washington, D.C. radio and television outlet for a whopping $11.5 million. However, that deal hinged on two other things occurring upfront. First, RCA-NBC must be permitted to acquire another big city station, perhaps in San Francisco. Second, the U.S. Department of Justice must agree to that arrangement. Another legal issue to arise concerned the upcoming Philco case. You might remember that this looming court battle revolved around so-called unfair business dealings initiated by NBC against that well-established Philadelphia corporation. Amazingly, that regulatory agency remained silent on Philco’s most recent legal action perhaps due to the fact that its commissioners had not yet fully processed the oral arguments that company had presented the previous October. If RKO-General was successful in acquiring WRC-Washington, D.C. then it would have to divest itself of its current holding in the district WGMS. WBC President Don McGannon said that all of this legal mumble jumble could be resolved very quickly if Congress enacted a commercial bribery law with some teeth in it. However, he knew such actions were highly unlikely based on the hesitation of Congressional leaders to act swiftly on payola.
February 1960 saw the House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee begin its long overdue hearings on that subject. Early testimony showed that both KYW and WBZ had done nothing to stop several of their jocks from receiving thousands of dollars in consulting fees and gifts. In the case of Boston’s WBZ, three of its favorite celebrities Alan Dary (1920-2009), Dave Maynard (1929-2012) and Norm Prescott (1927-2005) had received a total of more than $16,000 in gifts and money from the record industry. Unlike its sister station in Boston, KYW-Cleveland brazenly refused to supply that committee with either its program logs or playlists. That bold action by KYW was astonishing given the weightiness of this situation. Remember its DJs had received more than $30,000 in “consulting fees” from numerous record labels and distributors covering a two year period. In Joe Finan’s case, his annual KYW salary ranged from $38,000 to $40,000. Further investigation by this same house committee discovered that he had received roughly $15,000 from a number of record companies and distributors. That breakdown included $1,250 from Mainline Distributor; $2,500 from Cosnat Record Distribution Company, $5,200 from Mercury Records, $450 from Big Top, $600 from United Artists and $1,400 from Shad. Finan also got $1,400 from Hugo & Luigi Productions, $600 from Decca, $450 from Cameo, $1,050 from Carlton, $400 from Epic, $600 from Coed, $300 from Meridian Music Publishers (Red Label), $200 from London Records and $150 from Madison. Chess Record Company also furnished Finan a $2,000 no-interest loan of which $1,700 of it remained outstanding.
Hopkins reported an annual salary of $21,800. He had received $5,000 in 1958 and $7,000 the following year. That included $1,300 from Mainline Distributor; $3,400 from Mercury Records, $1,675 from Cosnat and $300 from Big Top. Hopkins also received $575 in consulting fees from Shad Records plus $75 from Cameo, $950 from Carlton, $900 from Jubilee, $275 from Coed and $200 from End Records. Apparently, the recently fired KYW record librarian Charles Young had assisted them in choosing the records they played. Young had received $450 from Mainline Distributor; $800 to $900 from Mercury Records, $300 from Time Records, $500 from Roulette, $50 to $75 from Coed and $300 to $350 from Cosnat. He claimed that he was always above board in his business practices and that he never knowingly promoted one record company over another. A WBC publicity campaign in February 1960 proudly announced that KYW-AM was once again Cleveland’s number one radio station. As a tribute to local radio legends, station managers praised Tom Manning for his many years of devoted service to both WTAM and KYW. For quite a while its highly confident promoters had been searching for a new station identity, one that would resonate well with their emergent listening audience. That March, they moved ahead with plans to convert “good old” KY-11 into the all-new “Big K.” Station promoters, thinking they had indeed found the perfect solution to their dilemma, asked their trusted fans to start thinking “K-Konscious.” That promotion effort also included a quirky contest in which the lucky winner won a free trip to beautiful “Kopenhagen, Denmark.”
This “krazy” publicity campaign purposely focused the public’s attention on “kazoplaying” contests, kayak races and kite flying races. Panned by critics and listeners alike from its first day that promo disappeared as rapidly as it appeared. On the positive side of the corporate ledger, KYW’s special Sunday show starring Ronnie Barrett continued to attract a large number of new followers. Aptly named “Album of the Week” it originated from the record department at Halle Brothers department store downtown. That same month, more legal details began to unfold concerning the current RKO-General petition. That entire $11.5 million deal hung in the balance unless the feds allowed the National Broadcasting Company to acquire KTVU-Oakland for the $7.5 million figure. Network officials considered that deal well within their ball park. The one problem still looming on the horizon for RCA-NBC was whether the DOJ and FCC would approve it.
KYW’s Program Director Bud Wendell proudly represented the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company at a White House Conference on children and youth. Local programmers added racing results to Wally King’s afternoon gig. The successful Road Show reflected that station’s unyielding commitment to provide Clevelanders with excellent community service. A recipient of the American Legion prestigious “Citation of Merit,” the Road Show demonstrated time after time the very best in civic pride. It had also won the much coveted Sylvana Award, as well as the Edison Award and the Freedom Foundation Award. In April ‘60, WBC officially unveiled its latest plans for a new radio and television studio. Located at 1405 East 6th Street in the former East Ohio Gas Building and designed by the architectural team of Sidney Stadig and Jack Bialosky, Sr. (1926-2020), this beaux arts complex featured two large television studios, state-of-the-art office space and a well-stocked cafeteria. Riding the crest of his many recent successes, the head of WBC Don McGannon offered some sage advice to his colleagues. Stepping down as Chairman of the National Artists & Broadcasters TV Code Review, he reminded everyone that the incredible rebirth of commercial broadcasting over the past fifteen years or so was not just due to the ever growing popularity of that new phenomenon we know as television. He said that commercial radio stations also deserved a great deal of the credit for its success. In fact, radio far outstripped television when it came to offering the most up-to-date newscasts as well as many high quality shows. He further suggested that sharing useful broadcasting tips across the mediums through annual corporate sponsored conferences produced a wide array of highly ingenious, new business ideas. The many outstanding managers and skilled technicians that currently worked in Westinghouse radio and television provided all of that and so much more to their co–workers. McGannon believed that today’s radio industry connected millions of listeners to the world around them on a daily basis. No other broadcasting medium could boast that in the early ‘60s.
WBC’s counsel awaited the impending WRCV’s license renewal storm that was about to unleash its fury and might on the federal courts. Philco’s pending proposal called for not only spend an astounding $4.1 million to erect a new, top-of-the-line on-site television antenna; but also, an additional $5 million to improve that station’s overall operational capabilities. As previously noted, the Philco Corporation in 1953 had sold its original Philly television station to the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company for an amazing $8.5 million. Its legal staff insisted that NBC had repeatedly shirked its responsibilities when it came to providing Philadelphians with top quality live programming. RCA-NBC countered that charge directly by claiming that Philco had been harassing it needlessly. Would that fight ever end peaceably no one knew?
- Russell W. Kane, “Untouchables Deeply Interests Mrs. Ness,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 21, 1959. ↵
- “Radio, TV Said to Lack Responsibility Editorially,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 25, 1959. ↵
- “Nice Campaign Thousands Vie to Name KYW’s Friendly Imp,” Broadcasting, April 27, 1959. ↵
- “Music-and-News Format Is Being Broadened,” U.S. Radio, May 1959. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “KYW-FM is Looking Around for Sponsors,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 8, 1959. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “Eight-Sided Struggle Engulfs Radio Fans,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 10, 1959. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “Bar Group’s Verdict Dooms Traffic Court,” The Plain Dealer, May 14, 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Platter of Platter Voices, D.J. Meet to Double Attendance Last Year,” Broadcasting, May 18, 1959. ↵
- “McGannon Says WBC Network Label Wrong,” Broadcasting, June 8, 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Disc Jockey: Performer or Businessman?” U.S. Radio, July 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Search for New Sound Keeps Pot Boiling Madly,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 19, 1959. ↵
- “Philco vs. NBC Oct. 1,” Broadcasting, August 10, 1959. ↵
- “Week’s Headliners,” Broadcasting, August 17, 1959. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “Pat on the Back for Gordon Davis,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 23, 1959. ↵
- George E. Condon, “KYW Schedules to Get Reshuffle as New Program Boss Takes Over,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 14, 1959. ↵
- “The New Horizons Community Service Project of KYW Cleveland,” Broadcasting, August 17, 1959. ↵
- “WBC Sales Curve Up in Both Radio & TV,” Broadcasting, August 24, 1959. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “Dudley and Neal to Revive Graneyism,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 26, 1959. ↵
- “Consent Decree Near?” Broadcasting, August 31, 1959. ↵
- “Is Radio Playing Music In a Single Groove?” U.S. Radio, September 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Week’s Headliners,” Broadcasting, September 7, 1959. ↵
- “Ruling Seen Not Hitting KYW Outlets,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 23, 1959. ↵
- “Colleges to Benefit by WBC Spot Campaign,” Broadcasting, September 28, 1959. ↵
- “Now TV Has a Consent Decree, Some Key Network Practices Must Stand Antitrust Tests From Here On,” Broadcasting, September 28, 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Cleveland Stations Battle,” Broadcasting, October 5, 1959. ↵
- “Helicopter Might Watch Traffic,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 11, 1959. ↵
- “Voters Register,” Broadcasting, October 12, 1959. ↵
- “Fates and Fortunes,” Broadcasting, October 19, 1959. ↵
- “Megatown Idea WBC Area Study Shows Radio-TV Best Engulfer,” Broadcasting, October 26, 1959. ↵
- “Sponsor Contest,” U.S. Radio, November 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- George E. Condon, “Condon’s Notes Will Only the Contestants Be Punished In The Television Quiz Show Frauds?” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 4, 1959. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “FM-Your Ticket to Quality Music,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 8, 1959. ↵
- “KYW’s Billion Dollar Promotion,” Broadcasting, November 16, 1959. ↵
- “Program PM Returns to Old Form,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 28, 1959. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Look and Listen All Day Tomorrow: KYW Holiday Kick-Off,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 29, 1959. ↵
- George E. Condon, “KYW Signs Off Finan and Hopkins,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 4, 1959. ↵
- Richard Shepard, “Disk Concern Cites Payola,” The New York Times, November 2, 1959. Ralph Blumenthal, “Charges of Payola Over Radio Music,” The New York Times, May 25, 2002. ↵
- “KYW Signs Off Finan and Hopkins.” ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “9 Record Firms, One Here, Are Charged With Payola,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 1959. ↵
- “KYW D.J.’s Fired,” Broadcasting, December 7, 1959. ↵
- “The Year in Review,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 27, 1959. ↵
- “PM Expands Again in Listener Victory,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 2, 1960. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “Finan Argues Case in Talk to Jaycees,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 7, 1960. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “NBC Plans Shift for Two Stations,” The New York Times, January 21, 1960. ↵
- “NBC Swap With RKO Taking Shape,” Broadcasting, January 25, 1960. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Hi-Fi Club Moves; New Cards Needed,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 23, 1960. ↵
- “NBC Swap With RKO Taking Shape,” Broadcasting, January 25, 1960. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “TV Official Urges U.S. to Ban Payola,” The New York Times, January 26, 1960. ↵
- “Harris Drums Up Payola Parade and a Surprised Westinghouse Finds Itself Leading the March,” Broadcasting, February 15, 1960. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Edward Kernan, “Got $12,000 on Side, Finan Says Only $450 was Payola He Insists,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 10, 1960. ↵
- “Harris Drums Up Payola Parade.” ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “KYW Is Way Up in Cleveland!” Broadcasting, February 15, 1960. ↵
- George E. Condon, “New Radio Riddle: Who Took a Big Cue from WABQ?” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 6, 1960. ↵
- “Listen to Album of the Week with Ronnie Barrett on KYW Radio,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 20, 1960. ↵
- “NBC, RKO General Trades Three-City Station Sales are Announced,” Broadcasting, March 21, 1960. ↵
- Russell W. Kane, “Censorship is Topic for Debate Program,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 22, 1960. ↵
- “KYW-1100 KC,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 1, 1960. ↵
- “Our Helpless and Handicapped, KYW Cleveland,” Broadcasting, April 11, 1960. ↵
- Adin C. Rider, “KYW to Have New Home In Ex-Gas Building,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 27, 1960. “KYW-AM-TV Moves Into New Studio Facilities,” Broadcasting, December 12, 1960. ↵
- “The Road Ahead,” U.S. Radio, May 1960. ↵
- “Philco Wants Ch. 3 Philly,” Broadcasting, May 9, 1960. ↵
- Ibid. ↵