The History of WMAQ Radio

Chapter 11

In November of 1926 station WEAF was purchased from the Telephone Company by the Radio Corporation of America, to be incorporated as the National Broadcasting Company. RCA and NBC together were trying to develop a new idea in radio: network broadcasting, whereby a single program could be simultaneously broadcast by many different transmitters and stations, this lowering the cost of individual performances for each station. The idea was not quick to catch on, but gradually stations began to sign up for this “new service”---and at the same time the quality of those network programs were being improved and developed.

In January, 1927, WMAQ carried the first of these NBC programs in Chicago---by wire line from WEAF in New York. This, and later sustaining programs were sold to any station at $45 per hour---but only to one outlet in any one city. When broadcasting a “sponsored” program, each station of the network received $50 for putting the program on the air in that city. WMAQ carried sustaining programs largely, as did most of the other member stations, since radio sponsors were far from prolific in 1927.

Since 1923 WMAQ had been operating with a frequency of 670 kilocycles, that channel being shared with WQJ, a station owned jointly by the Calumet Powder Baking Company and Rainbo Gardens. All during 1923 and 1924, WQJ operated regularly, equaling if not exceeding WMAQ’s time on the 670 kilocycle channel. However, in 1925 and 1926, WQJ operated only a few hours each week, and WMAQ dominated the channel exclusively. On March 1st, 1927, the Daily News bought WQJ, and both stations were thereby consolidated under one ownership and management. One proviso of the contract was that the Calumet Baking Powder Company would receive courtesy announcements for eight years thereafter---and this was done by WMAQ until 1935, according to the letter of the contract. The Federal Radio Commission permitted the use of one set of call-letters for the 670 kilocycle frequency in 1928, and since then WMAQ has been operating with a clear channel.

In September, 1927, WMAQ severed relations with the National Broadcasting Company and joined the newly formed Columbia Broadcasting System. The first CBS network broadcast---a musical program from WABC in New York---went on the air from WMAQ the night of September 18th. Eight weeks later, the night of November 14th was observed as the last Silent Night by all Chicago stations, and from that date WMAQ operated on a daily schedule.

New Year’s Eve was quite an event for WMAQ that year, as the station established a new record for continuous broadcasting: 43 hours and 48 minutes, running from December 31st until the night on January 1, 1928. The program consisted mainly of recorded dance music, for which event an extra large supply of wax discs was transported to the La Salle Hotel studios.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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