Radio, Silent Movie Capital | Chicago Baseball on Television
Broadcasting, December 1, 1939
Two Seek Stations
BALABAN & KATZ corp., Chicago, big motion picture theater chain, has applied to the FCC for authority to erect a new television station (W9XBK) in that city to be located at the northeast corner of Washington Blvd. and Crawford Ave. It asks for 1,000 watts on the 66-72 mc. band. The Commission has also been asked by Henry Joseph Walczak, Springfield, Mass. to authorize a new television there. He asked for 250 watts on 1550 kc., though that frequency is not allocated for television.
Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1941
A television tower is rising in Chicago’s loop. The antenna mast for Balaban and Katz’s new television station, W9XBK, atop the State-Lake building already has reached a point some 350 feet above street level. When completed this spring it will rise over 400 feet, surmounting all but the tallest skyscrapers.
Meanwhile the station, using low power and a smaller, lower antenna system, is engaged in experimental transmissions from studios of the State-Lake building. These are conducted by William C. Eddy, graduate of the United States Naval Academy, who is the director of television for B. & K. Mr. Eddy is a veteran in the field of television having worked for years with NBC and RCA.
Check Experimental Programs.
A dozen receivers have been placed round about Chicago for use in checking the quality of reception of these experimental programs. Starting early in May, sample transmissions will be available to the theater going public. Receivers will be scattered about the mezzanine floor of the Chicago theater.
There will be programs several times each day. These will be typical of the experimental shows that have been sent out for months. Northwestern university players have appeared from time to time and many types of amateur performers, some from the vaudeville stage, presented. There are showings of the new fashions now and then. The other day new types of hair-dos were demonstrated.
Images 9×11 Inches.
B. & K. uses the DuMont system of television with 525 lines per image. This fine line system provides images that are marked for their clarity and sharp definition. The images are about 9 by 11 inches.
Looking into a receiver in the studio we watched traffic moving along Wacker drive the other day. The camera pointed out a window was focused on the Chicago river several blocks away and we watched with interest the changing view of boats and street cars and followed the outlines of the familiar skyline as a technician “panned” (from panorama) back and forth.
Auditions and rehearsals are old stuff to anyone in radio. But a television audition! That is something new and different. In ordinary radio sound is everything; in television sound becomes supplementary to sight. Mr. Eddy rates the response to sight at about 86 per cent and to sound only 14.
No Scripts Permitted.
Television auditioners, accustomed to performing in studios with a script are at a disadvantage because here no scripts are permitted. Stage performers seem to have the advantage over radio performers. As candidates for the new art take their position midst dazzling lights double chins, awkward gestures, and mannerisms are emphasized.
A scene may open with a distant effect, then the camera moves in for a closeup. Shifts may then be made from a performer’s face to his hands.
One is impressed with the fact that the art of television. since it is still experimental, is so fluid and plastic. There is much of the trial and error technique about it.
Post-war images of WBKB test pattern and cameras.
Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1941
Washington, D.C., May 2 (AP).—The Federal Communications commission told the television industry today that after July 1 it could follow the precedent of radio and sell its broadcasts to sponsors.
In granting the authorization for commercial broadcasts the commission said the industry is “entirely in agreement that television is ready for standardization.” That, it was explained, means that a set built to standards would receive any of the pictures broadcast by transmitters also built to national standards—instead of being “keyed” to only one station or group of stations.
Earlier Approval Cancelled.
The commission originally authorized commercial operation of television stations to be Sept. 1, 1940. It set that date aside, however, and ordered new hearings.
To have approved commercialization then, the commission said today, would have been at a time when the “industry was sharply divided” on the question of standards. “Any attempt to have done so would have frozen the state of the art to the then unsatisfactory level of performance,” the commission commented.
The National Association of Broadcasters estimated that 7,000 television receivers are in the hands of the American public, with the New York City metropolitan area having almost 5,000 of the total.
Stations Operate Experimentally.
Pending a fixing of a commercialization date the stations already on the air have been operating on an experimental basis. Regular scheduled broadcasts have been conducted in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, with various other stations operating at irregular hours.
Under the FCC’s new authorization stations will be required to offer a minimum of 15 hours of program service weekly.
FEW SETS IN CHICAGO.
Radio experts last night estimated that there are only about 50 television receivers in Illinois at present—most of them in Chicago, where experimental stations have been operated by Zenith Radio corporation and by Balaban and Katz corporation.
Virtually all television stations in operation are in metropolitan areas, since the range of “good” transmission is roughly 40 miles—on a “line of sight” from the top of the transmitter to a point slightly beyond the horizon. In this respect television differs from long wave radio broadcasting.
Transmitter Costs $100,000.
Television chain programs may not become a reality for five years, experts said. The short range of effective transmission would require the construction of relay transmitters at intermediate points between the broadcasting stations of a chain. A television transmitter of medium power would cost about $100,000, against $40,000 for a comparable radio transmitter, the experts estimated. They placed the price of a “fair” television receiver for the home at $300 to $400.
Persons wishing to buy television receivers, however, may be able to obtain color sets, which are reported highly developed and more pleasing than those which display only black and white pictures.
Among the principal concerns interested in television are Zenith Radio, RCA, the Don Lee Broadcasting system (an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting system), CBS, NBC, the Farnsworth Television and Radio corporation, du Pont laboratories, and Philco Radio and Television corporation.
Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1946.
BY LARRY WOLTERS
Television history will be made in Chicago today at 1:25 p.m. when station WBKB takes its mobile camera pickup unit to cover the opening game in Wrigley field between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. A pre-game pickup at 1 p.m. will be made from the studios at 190 N. State st. Then the camera will pick up the entire nine innings, with Jack Gibney commenting. William C. Eddy, director of the station, said that other important games will be televised this season.
Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1946
FAIL IN EFFORT TO TELEVISE CUBS’ GAME
Station WBKB’s effort to televise the Chicago Cubs game with the Cardinals yesterday failed. The station’s mobile unit televised the game successfully at the field, but electrical interference in the State-Lake building where the transmitter is located resulted in such poor images that William C. Eddy, director, declined to put them on the air.
This was the first attempt to televise a baseball game in Chicago. Eddy said that tests conducted Friday evening from the mobile unit produced good images. Yesterday some adjustments were made in the antenna and then came trouble. Eddy blamed the interference on elevator operations in the building where the studios and the transmitter are located. He said that another try to make a remote pickup would be made soon, probably next Saturday.
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1946
Telecasting Chicago baseball for the first time yesterday, WBKB brought video fans the entire Cubs and Dodgers game, relayed thru its mobile unit from Wrigley field. Televiewers saw the game from an upper tier position looking across home plate down the first base line, with the pitcher in view on the mound. Excepting when the camera was swung to follow action, they missed the activity at second, third, and in most of the outfield.
Since only one camera was available, the baseball figures always appeared in miniature form, perhaps three Inches high at the best. Only rarely could the ball be seen. Nevertheless lookers could follow most of the action and they got some of the feeling and color (as well as the sound) of the national pastime. They heard the smack of the bat on the ball even tho both were invisible as the Dodgers won, 4 to 3.
Crowd Reaction Shown
During the second inning, William C. Eddy, the station director, substituted a camera giving a somewhat closer altho more limited view. This, however, required the cameramen to shift back and forth from pitcher to batter. Fans preferred the earlier setup and Eddy reverted to it after one inning. The camera was swung from time to time to show the crowd and its reactions. Several times It followed ai foul ball into the stands.
The lookers got good views of the players leading off from first, of Leo Durocher rushing out to argue with an umpire (they looked like black bears), of the dust raised as a runner slid home. Fans got a clear view of the double play, with the action from short to second to first, retiring the Cubs in the 6th inning. They got a lift out of Marvin Rickert’s run in the seventh, and the two runs in the last of the ninth.
ComInleut Is Sparing
Jack Gibney, the commentator, judiciously let the pictures speak for themselves. His comment was limited largely to describing action out of range of the camera, to statistics, recapitulation, and crowd color and reactions.
During the telecast several telegrams came into the Balaban and Katz studios commenting favorably on the pickup. This note was reminiscent of the early days of radio when bales of wires used to arrive. The pictures yesterday were picked up as far distant as Michigan City, Ind.
Because of the considerable area of action in baseball, this sport is much less satisfactory for telecasting at present than wrestling or boxing. Eddy was satisfied, however, with the result yesterday to continue. WBKB will telecast the Cubs-Giants game tomorrow.
On April 16, 1948, Chicago’s WGN-TV (run by Jake Israel) broadcast its first big-league game, with Jack Brickhouse calling the White Sox’ 4-1 defeat of the Cubs in an exhibition game at Wrigley Field. WGN televised each Cubs and White Sox home game live. According to Brickhouse,
It worked because the Cubs and White Sox weren’t home at the same time. You aired the Sox at Comiskey, or Cubs at Wrigley Field. Daytime scheduling gave the Cubs a decided edge, as Wrigley didn’t have lights, so kids came home from school, had a sandwich, and turned the TV on.
A WBKB Cameraman using a Zoomar Lens at Wrigley Field
By manipulating a lever he can change focus for a close-up or a wide-angle shot of the field.
Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1947
Chicago’s television audience—which can’t be very large since only about 1,000 receivers have been distributed in Chicago—got a preview of what television may do to politics on a recent evening when Ald. Moss (5th) appeared before the cameras on station WBKB. The program was the first politically sponsored telecast in Illinois.
If the fifth ward is average, it has only about 20 television receivers, so the outcome of Moss’ campaign for reelection won’t hinge on his television appeal. But as a political experiment and the forerunner of other such telecasts, it is worth looking into his technique.
They Have Informal Chat
Televiewers saw Moss and Bob Elson, an announcer, seated in easy chairs in front of a fireplace, and it was as tho Moss had dropped into the viewer’s home for a call. Elson asked the questions and Moss answered them informally without a script. He displayed a large map of the 5th ward showing its relation to the rest of the city.
Issues discussed informally included housing, schools, ward improvements, and city finances. Moss showed newspaper items about himself and his campaign material. He was serious for the most part, but smiled and gestured effectively when the subject needed such treatment.
Moss Completely at Ease
Moss was completely at ease, unlike many television subjects. His words and manner were sincere, and Elson, who is an old friend, helped put him in a natural mood.
The day seems to be fading when a political spokesman may introduce a candidate and let him unleash a blast of oratory, because that won’t do in television. Other candidates will brave the new medium, and their efforts will be watched with interest, in comparison with Moss’ excellent pioneer effort.
David Sarnoff,1 president of the Radio Corporation of America, expects television to play the same relation to the 1948 Presidential campaign as radio played to the 1924 campaign when Coolidge, Cox, and Bryan used the then new communication method and were impressed with its potentialities as a method of swaying the people.
Popular Mechanics, January, 1947
By Clifford B. Hicks
“Places!” calls the director, her voice rising above the flurry of last-minute preparations in the big television studio.
Actors step quickly to the three other sets, muttering their lines in a final rehearsal. Technicians inspect the cameras and sound boom. Overhead, an electrician adjusts banks of bright lights that wipe every shadow from the big room.
The director peers critically at five small television screens along one wall. “No. 1 dolly in!” she says into her mike.
Her words travel through a network of wires to the dolly-pusher’s earphones. He shoves the heavy dolly toward one of the sets, while atop the dolly the cameraman squints into the eyepiece of the big camera, focusing on one of the actors.
“No. 2 pan left!” orders the director. Immediately there is a flurry of movement toward the second set in the bright studio.
“Sound boom on the living room set!” The sound engineer turns a crank to twist the long boom across the room and over the set. He runs out the mike until it dangles just above an actor’s head.
At one end of the big studio two actors take their places in a living room complete with furniture, lamps, draperies and a rug. Along another wall a third character putters around a workbench in a cluttered basement scene. An actor on the third set stands iun a model workshop, power tools grouped around him.
“Watch the red light!” The big studio instantly becomes quiet. Only ten seconds to go.
A bulb on the front of No. 1 camera glows red, the actors start well-rehearsed movements and the show is on the air.
Sound engineer runs out mike while the cameraman at left adjusts his camera for a long view. Camera at right is equipped with a telescopic lens and can take continual close-ups without obstructing other cameras
That was the minute-before-performance scene when Popular Mechanics recently broadcast an original television play, “Mr. Fix-It Earns a Holiday,” over Station WBKB in Chicago. The show was one the first to be produced in WBKB’s new studio, a soundproof room big enough to hold a dozen sets at a time.
Popular Mechanics wrote, produced and broadcast the show to get inside, straight-from-the-shoulder answers on postwar television. Tossing a moving image into the atmosphere and snaring it on a receiving screen 50 miles away is a magic trick that was oversold to the public a decade ago. Yet not one person in 100,000 knows just how a program is televised or how good postwar television is. Getting your feet wet in television is a novel experience confirming optimistic reports that have circulated for years that video is ready to meet the public.
Director supervises broadcast from booth at left. Screen at far left is reserved for remote pickups, the second is a movie film, the two at right show what studio cameras see, and center screen shows what’s on the air.
There’s a scarcity of good television writers during these pioneer days in video so Popular Mechanics staff decided to write its own show. Radio authors, accustomed to writing “blind” programs, tend to forget the eyes of the audience in scripting a television program.
Production personnel of Station WBKB took charge of the program after the script was written. Captain William C. Eddy, director of the station, named Kit Carson producer-director of the show. Miss Carson is a television pioneer who helped video weather the war years when growth was impossible because improved equipment could not be manufactured.
The wire from the director’s mike carries the pulse of any telecast. All production personnel except actors wear earphones and the director can personally instruct the cameraman to move forward for a close-up or tell the production engineer to swing the sound boom farther to the right.
In front of the director are five monitoring screens. One of these screens carries a motion picture that can be switched on the air at any time, another shows nothing during studio broadcasts, but is connected with a remote control pickup camera for outside programs. A third, the screen in the center, shows the picture that is on the air and the remaining two show what each camera is picking up. By flicking switches the director can put on the air the picture appearing on any of the screens, varying the angle and distance of view.
James R. Ward, Craftsman editor, was one of the leading characters and played his own part in the show. Professionals were hired to play the other three parts. In years to come when more programs are broadcast the professional player will need the memory of an elephant. A telecast is a one-shot show. The actor must memorize two or three scripts at a time, then two or three more the following week. Mr. Ward learned first hand all the problems of professional players. The overhead lights make the studio as hot as a summer day in the tropics. And during these frontier days in video the actors are sometimes neglected in the preoccupation to get a “good image.”
Some strange quirks in telecasting were discovered in producing the Popular Mechanics show. A few colors don’t appear on the screen in their usual black-and-white values. Red usually goes much lighter than it would in a photograph, while any black material with a sheen appears silvery and sometimes white on the screen.
The camera often goes beneath the surface to produce startling effects. For example, all three male characters in the show were clean-shaven, yet the screen showed a dark shadow on each chin. In the first teleshows this effect was even worse and some romantic leads appeared with dark beards. Natural tears won’t register so milk is used sometimes. Occasionally an actor dressed to contrast with the background dissolves inyo it and only the head shows on the screen. Some synthetic materials practically disappear in the camera and it’s been reported that a bathing beauty show early in television history was quickly cancelled when the bathing suits looked like Cellophane.
These peculiarities result from the camera’s ability to photograph invisible as well as visible light. Infrared rays go beneath the surface to find pictures that aren’t meant to be shown. An improved camera has been developed by RCA that filters out infrared light. The same camera will filter out visible light and photograph only by infrared rays. With such a camera the recent show could have been produced in total darkness and still appeared bright and clear on the screen.
Most of the other technical problems have been licked, too. Pictures of the Popular Mechanics show on receiver screens were much more distinct thanhome movies. The days have passed when actors looked like reflections in a fun-house mirror or disappeared in video snowstorms. For remote control broadcasts the new image orthicon camera will pick up anything that the unaided eye can see, will broadcast a scene lighted only by candles or the flare of a match, and can follow a baseball out of the park on a cloudy day.
Postwar receivers are keeping pace with other improvements. Direct-view screens of the new receivers average six by eight inches in size which reflected images much larger than that. Manufacturers are tapping the working man’s pocketbook with prices down to about $200 to $350 for table models, although you can sink as much as $2400 in a fancy console. A spokesman recently set the industry’s production goal at “not less than 750,000 and if possible 1,000,000 receivers in 1947.”
To a public sold on television a decade ago it’s a distinct disappointment that television, despite technical improvements, is still in the barnstorming phase. There are a few good programs today but much of the time the air is filled with second-rate entertainment. Some authorities estimate that five years will pass before high-class visual entertainment will flood the air waves.
Why will there be a lag in good programs, now that good pictures can be broadcast? Video is chasing its own tail in a vicious circle. Sponsors won’t invest big money in first-rate entertainment until there are several receivers in the hands of the public. And a penny-wise public won’t buy many sets until entertainment is first-rate.
From the sponsor’s standpoint it’s just poor advertising to spend as much as $14,000 on a lavish show that will reach only 1400 people. Several large companies have spent thousands of dollars on telecasts for much the same reason that this magazine broadcast its show—to discover video’s possibilities. One spokesman says “as far as we can tell in our company, our hours and dollars in television have not yet made a ripple in our total sales.”
Coaxial cables may help television stand on its own feet. They make network broadcasts possible, opening promising new fields where no television receivers can now operate. Last October there were 2700 miles of coaxial cable already in the ground. Coast-to-coast links by 1950 are planned. Transmitters without studios can be set up anywhere along these cables and programs piped to areas outside the 50-mile broadcasting radius of present telestations.
But old-timers at Station WBKB say there’s only one way that television can emerge from its vicious circle and climb into an upward spiral. Broadcasting stations themselves must lift the industry by out by its bootstraps. They must provide the finest possible entertainment despite penny-pinching budgets. When programs are a little better a few more people will want receivers. When a few more receivers have been sold, advertisers will invest a few more dollars in better programs.
Will television ever replace radios and moving pictures? Experts doubt that any present form of entertainment will be outmoded. The housewife can listen to the radio while she works, but she can’t watch television. Television programs will be extremely popular in the evening and open broad opportunities for mass education. But most “television families” still will seek entertainment elsewhere. Half the fun of attending a movie or a stage show is “going out” for the evening. Television is a spanking new and different medium cutting across every filed of entertainment but traveling its own road.
Chicago Tribune, October 19, 1947
BY MARGUERITE RATTY
Ollie, the puppet dragon on WBKB’s Junior Jamboree, may discover some patrons of television equipped taverns, but in less than a week he’s become a fast friend of many Chicago youngsters.
Junior Jamboree is one of three video shows WBKB recently launched in an effort to liven afternoon looking for women and children. Local entertainers have an opportunity to make television debuts on Chicago Television Showcase offered Monday thru Friday at 3 p.m. This show is pushed up top 3:30 on Tuesdays to make room for Jane Foster Comes To Call, a cooking instruction session.
Teddy Curran, a 5 year old Elmwood Parker who’s normally as restless as a rabbit pilfering carrots, watched the premier of Junior Junction and hasn’t been as quiet since he had his tonsils removed, his mother stated. He saw the show in the living room of a playmate, Ann Rennick, 2008 N. 74th st., Elmwood Park, who, tho only 2, also watched portions of the show intently.
They Laugh at Puppets
These two enjoyed Burr Tillstrom’s puppets and a short cartoon presentation most. The historical movie and interview appealed best to teen-age televiewers like the Evanston girl who planned to have a Junior Jamboree party soon. Her 10 year old sister asked for more films on the show, which is offered at 5 p.m. Monday thru Friday.
Walter Ambrose, who is 5, 2042 N. 74th st., Elmwood Park, probably didn’t enjoy the hour long show as much as his mother who said it gave her a chance to prepare dinner without being interrupted bu him and his teen-ager sister.
Children from 6 to 16 are invited to the stores of their local television dealers to view Junior Jamboree each afternoon.
Master of ceremonies on Junior Jamboree is a clown, but not in the sense that most most masters of ceremonies are clowns. Kukla is a puppet with a head full of cotton, and eye full of mischief, and a mouthful of conversation that is wise, petulant, humorous, and dictatorial by turns. Kukla is aided in impresario chores by Fran Allison, known to Breakfast Club listeners as Aunt Fanny.
All of the youngsters we interviewed about the show expressed enthusiasm for Fran, whose easy accent and genuine friendliness are acceptable behind a camera as behind a microphone.
Behind the Scenes Views
A spaghetti supper with puppeteer Burr Tillstrom and Russ Davis, who has added announcing duties for the Jane Foster show to his regular television wrestling and boxing schedule, provided an opportunity to hear “back of the camera” chatter about WBKB’s new programs.
Tillstrom, still in his twenties, looks like he might be a sophomore sized brother of one of his fans. This collegiate air is supplemented by the notebook he regularly lugs around and fills with spur of the moment ideas and suggestions.
When questioned about his puppets, all of which he makes himself, Tillstrom’s eyes seem to look beyond reality into some realm as far away as the Land of Oz, where he actually has garnered inspiration for some of his creations. s a youngster, Tillstrom owned a home-made puppet doll which he endowed with the personalities of many of L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books.
While still at Senn high school, Tillstrom was giving professional puppet performances. Every Saturday Chicago moppets mob a local department store to see him work.
Billboard, February 12, 1949
ST To Handle WBKB Multiscope Machine
CHICAGO, Feb 5.—Balaban & Katz, owners of WBKB, local video station, this week formed a new wholly owned subsidiary, Sterling Television, Inc., to handle development of the stations’s multiscope news projection machine. This new device, put into operation by WBKB a few weeks ago to telecast weather announcements, moving news tape, time and sponsored advertising slides, has been received with great enthusiasm by other stations in the industry, a spokesman for WBKB said. So far, 23 stations have placed firm orders for the machine.
Officers and directors of Sterling, as yet unannounced, will be executives of WBKB or Balaban & Katz. The company will be used in the futire to sell, rent, or lease to the trade other video developments of value to the entire industry, it was said.
Working with Sterling on the development and didtribution of the multiscope are the United Press and Acme News Pictures, Acme Teletronics Division of NEA, owned by UP, will develop and manufature the mulrtiscope. The UP sales organization will take care of leasing the machines to stations at a price not yet determined.
In addition to providing a new source of revenue thru sales of inexpensive advertising announcements, the multiscope, WBKB claims, obviates the need for strip film projectors, slide projectors and balopticans.
Multiscope is the miracle machine developed by WBKB and presented to Midwest audiences for the first time over Chicago’s oldest television station. With this amazing device, Chicagoland viewers are kept constantly up-to-date on the correct Western Union time; the latest weather forecast including temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and wind velocity as all the while latest worldwide and local United Press tape flashes across the screen, just as it is received in the WBKB Newsroom. In effect, Multiscope makes every home a city desk.
This is Multiscope in action! Onto the screens of Chicagoland television sets is sent pictures similar to the above during the 49 hours every week that Multiscope is in operation at the Television Theatre.
1949 WBKB Sales Brochure
1949 WBKB Sales Brochure
1949 WBKB Sales Brochure
Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1949
John Balaban was elected president of Balaban & Katz corporation yesterday to succeed his brother, Barney Balaban, who had been the president since the company’s inception. Barney Balaban remains president of Paramount Pictures, Inc., which becomes a separate company as a result of a federal decree separating production and distribution from the theater group.
Leonard Goldenson was named president of the theater group, of which B. & K. is a subsidiary. E. C. Union was named secretary and treasurer of B. & K.—John Balaban’s former offices—and Walter Immerman, Arthur Goldberg, and Leonard Goldenson became vice presidents.
Chicago Tribune, February 10, 1953
Final approval to the merger of United Paramount Theaters, Inc., and the American Broadcasting company into a single corporation was made yesterday by the federal communications commission on Washington.
The merger creates a new company, American Broadcasting=Paramount Theaters, Inc. (ABC-PTI), which will operate coast to coast motion picture houses and radio and television networks. New York City spokesman of the two companies said the merger would be put into effect immediately.
Adds 600 Theaters
Paramount will bring into the corporation 600 theaters in 297 cities, ABC has six standard radio stations, six FM stations, and five television stations, all wholly owned. It also has a radio network with 353 affiliates and a TV network with 78 affiliates.
Because ABC has a TV station in Chicago, WENR-TV, United Paramount is required WBKB for 6 million dollars and this transaction was also approved.
The FCC order on the merger will affect Chicago station call letters and channels as follows:
Channel 2, now occupied by Zenith on an experimental basis, will go to Columbia, which will use the call letters WBBM-TV;
Channel 4, now occupied by WBKB, will be awarded to a Milwaukee station;
Channel 7, now occupied by WENR, will go to A.B.C.-P.T.I., which will use the call letters WBKB. WENR-TV’s call letters will vanish.
Take Over Channel
H. Leslie Atlass, vice president of the Columbia Broadcasting system’s midwestern division, said CBS took over operation of channel 4 (WBKB) early last night and that the call letters would be changed shortly to WBBM-TV. Subsequently the station will operate on channel 2 when channel 4 is assigned to a station outside Chicago.
The FCC dismissed the application by Zenith Radio corporation for a commercial station to operate on channel 2, which Zenith has been using for experiments in phonevision, pay-as-you-look TV and for color TV.
Atlass said CBS was assuming all of the contracts of WBKB, with the exception of those of three men who are going to ABC-PTI. They are John Mitchell, manager of WBKB, who will become manager of the ABC-PTI station here; Sterling Quinlan, program manager, and William P. Kusack, chief engineer.
WBKB Personnel to Stay
Atlass said that a nucleus of a TV staff had been assembled by CBS, but that all WBKB staff members who desire to remain will be taken over.
Under the merger, Edward J. Noble, board chairman of ABC, will become chairman of the finance committee of the new company, and Leonard H. Goldenson, United Paramount president, will become president. Noble bought the network from NBC in 1942 for 8 million dollars.
Robert Kintner, president of ABC, said key personnel of the network will retain their positions, including John H. Norton Jr., vice president of ABC’s central division.
The FCC also made final a previous tentative ruling that Paramount Pictures corporation (a separate company for the theater corporation) controls Allen B. Du Mont Laboratories, operating the Du Mont TV network. The effect of this is to limit the number of TV stations which Paramount Pictures and Du Mont may own or control.
Other Stations of ABC
ABC has stations in New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, and New Orleans as well as in Chicago.
The FCC commissioners were not wholly agreed on the many complex issues involved. Of the seven members, five issued partial dissents on one or more issues.
Theater television—the showing of TV programs to audiences in motion picture houses and transmission of special programs out of the public reach—was not involved in the ruling.
Chicago Tribune, December 26, 1959
Just 20 years ago Chicago’s first television station, W9XBK, went on the air. There were only 50 TV sets in all Chicago and the station officials, who knew the names of each, would telephone them after every broadcast (15 minutes a day) to inquire about the reception. Often, if the picture wasn’t good, station engineers went to the viewers’ homes and serviced the faulty sets.
Station W9XBK has long since become WBKB (channel 7), owned and operated by the American Broadcasting company. And, since the number of TV sets in the Chicago area has grown to more than 3 million, WBKB can no longer telephone it broadcasts nor fix their sets.
Channel 7 has kept place with the tremendous growth of Chicago and TV Week congratulates the station and men who have made it great on its 20th anniversary.
Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1968
WBKB-TV has received Federal Communications commission approval to change its call letters to WLS-TV effective tomorrow.
The change was asked to make channel 7’s call letters uniform with those of the ABC-owned Chicago radio station WLS and WLS-FM. WLS-TV went on the air in the fall of 1939 as experimental station W9XBK, Chicago’s first TV station and the third TV station in the United States. In August, 1943 W9XBK obtained an FCC license for commercial operation and, two months later, WBKB-TV made its debut.
1David Sarnoff started out as a telegraph operator working for Guglielmo Marconi (inventor of the wireless). He became known for being one of the first operators of relaying the news of the Titanic rescue to the public. Mr. Sarnoff saw the potential of radio as point-to-mass. One person (the broadcaster) could speak to many (the listeners), unlike others who viewed radio as only point-to-point. In 1923 he wrote the famous text: “I believe that television, which is the technical name for seeing as well as hearing by radio, will come to pass in the future.”
For years he tried to purchase the Victor Talking Machine Co. and its famous “His Master’s Voice” trademark. The phonograph, according to his colleagues, was the natural enemy of radio. He said, “Very well, we’ll combine radio and the phonograph in the same set.” In 1929 Victor agreed to the sale and the radio/phonograph combo was introduced.