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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.