Head of NBC Tells Members of Association How City is to Lead


Curator's note: The article below, which appeared in the Chicago Herald and Examiner on December 4th, 1930 reflects the grandiose vision NBC management had developed for its Chicago production center.

Chicago became a key network origination point primarily for technical reasons: in the days before there were practical instantaneous recording techniques, and at a time, therefore, when it was necessary to broadcast the same program at least twice to hit stations in three time zones at an appropriate hour, it was far simpler---and far more economical---to service a nation-wide network from a central location.

Broadcasting a program twice from Chicago was far simpler than broadcasting it twice from New York. A Chicago origination, in its first instance, would typically be directed to the Central and Eastern time zones (leaving network lines west of Chicago free for other programs). Two hours later, the same program would be repeated, this time directed to the Mountain and Pacific zones (leaving the lines east of Chicago free). But if a program were repeated from New York, it would typically tie up the entire network---and would leave lines tied up in two time zones in which the program had already been broadcast. The only way around this problem was ordering a special line---an enormously expensive proposition and a daunting technical challenge.

NBC first encountered these issues when it established its permanent coast-to-coast network on December 24th, 1928 and began full-time---as opposed to prime-time only---broadcasting. (From NBC's inception in November, 1926 until the end of 1928, its Red and Blue networks were essentially evening and night-time operations, and had broadcast no farther west than Omaha. Its Orange network separately served the West Coast with its own programing (primarily from San Francisco) and was interconnected with the Red and Blue networks only for special broadcasts---and then, only with voice-quality telephone circuits.)

NBC's network configuration problem was compounded by the small number of studios available at its 711 Fifth Avenue headquarters. From 1929 onward, it increasingly turned to Chicago for solutions. This trend continued until the late 1930's, when the opening of its Hollywood studios relieved some of the production pressures and when advanced recording techniques made it possible to eliminate some repeat broadcasts (though NBC seemed to have limited its transcribed rebroadcasts to its daytime schedule.)

"It's the western spirit, ladies and gentlemen, that brings forward the greatest activity in any development," said Merlin H. Aylesworth, president of the National Broadcasting Company, in addressing the luncheon meeting yesterday of the Chicago Association of Commerce.

"Three years ago," he continued, "I said that Chicago would be the radio center of the United States. Today, from the National Broadcasting Company facility and studio standpoint, that prediction has come true. In a few months, more programs will originate here than in New York."

The distinguished head of the world's greatest broadcasting system firmly held his audiences's attention as he described how his company's activities were broadening religious tolerance, subtly educating tired workers without their realizing they are learning, and aiding the farmer in his business problems.

Mr. Aylesworth criticized the "transcription" program as unprogressive, but said that perhaps it is better to have good phonograph records than poor talent from stations unable to present high class living voices and music. "If radio is to become a self-winding phonograph," he continued, "I feel that people might as well play records themselves and save the crowded air channels for the LIVING voice.

"We spent $6,000 for broadcasting the songs of four live canaries last year on one of our morning noncommercial programs, when we could have used a phonograph record and saved practically the whole amount," he pointed out as a concrete example of NBC policy.

Mr. Aylesworth told of his pride in the square deal reputation of NBC and its associated stations; laughed at the statement that radio might supplant the press, because, he indicated, radio can give only the headlines, and closed by expressing satisfaction that Chicago, "from where," he said, "the finest radio acts and programs are coming," is to become the radio center of the world.

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