BW - EP131—004: Orson Welles Is The Shadow—WOR And Network Radio In The Fall Of 1937


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The voice at the top of this clip is that of former WOR chief engineer Jack Poppele. The station went online on February 22nd, 1922. In 1934, WOR became one of the flagship stations of the Mutual Broadcasting System. The next March, Poppele was chiefly responsible for the creation of radio’s first directional antenna just as WOR increased its power to fifty-thousand watts. In December of 1936, Don Lee’s west coast chain of networks joined Mutual, giving it coast-to-coast access. But in the fall of 1937 The Mutual Broadcasting System had no top-fifty rated shows. Seventy-four percent of the U.S. population now had a radio set. Sunday evening’s most-heard shows belonged to Edgar Bergen, who pulled a 32.1, and Jack Benny, who pulled a 29.5. Both ran on NBC Red. Overall NBC’s Red Network had twenty-six of the nation’s top fifty shows, while CBS had nineteen, and NBC’s Blue Network had five. WOR’s Sunday afternoon programming had concerts, sports, and news bulletins. Their schedule was ripe for a new melodrama.

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