"The Golden Age of Radio"
(As originally broadcast on WTIC, Hartford, CT)

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Program 2 - May, 1970 - Charles Harrell

Charles Harrell was the Eastern program director for the NBC Blue and ABC radio networks.  NBC was founded in 1926 by RCA, GE, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation. The network started with 24 stations on November 15.

The National Broadcasting Company was created when RCA purchased radio stations WEAF-New York, WCAP-Washington, D.C., and the radio programming network from American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) in 1926 and merged those assets with its own WJZ New York, WRC Washington and radio programming network. The WEAF stations and network would become known as the NBC Red network; the WJZ stations and network would be dubbed the NBC Blue network, which later became the American Broadcasting Company.

The WEAF network was created by AT&T to serve as a research and development for technologies involved with transmitting audio over wire and radio. AT&T's Western Electric division manufactured radio transmitters and antennas and needed a real-world environment to test their design and ability to transmit audio. AT&T's long distance and local Bell operating divisions were developing technologies for transmitting voice- and music-grade audio over short and long distances, via both wireless and wired methods. These effort came together to create radio station WEAF in New York City.

With a radio station broadcasting to the public, programming was needed. WEAF put together a regular schedule of programs of all types, and created some of the first broadcasts to encorporate commercial endorsements or sponsorships by commercial entities. The station met with great success, and with the opening of radio stations across the United States many stations wished to share programming. WEAF's first efforts in what would become known first as "chain broadcasting" and later as "networking" tied together The Outlet Company's WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island with AT&T's WEAF and WCAP in Washington, D.C. (named for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company division of AT&T). With the success of this effort and the good audio quality of AT&T's phone line circuits, the WEAF network became a success.

At the same time, RCA was beginning to realize that sharing programming on stations in different cities also made sense. RCA licensed WRC in Washington, D.C. in 1923 and attempted to transmit audio between cities via low-quality telegraph lines, since AT&T refused outside companies access to their high-quality phone lines. The effort was poor at best, with the uninsulated telegraph lines incapable of good audio transmission quality and very susceptible to both atmospheric and man-made electrical interference.

In 1925 the management of AT&T decided that WEAF and its network were not compatible with AT&T's goal of providing phone service and began looking to sell the station and its network. AT&T found a ready buyer in RCA, whose primary business was radio broadcasting and manufacturing, a deal was struck where RCA would buy WEAF and gain the rights to rent AT&T's phone lines to transmit radio programs between cities.

In 1926, RCA bought WEAF, closed WCAP, created the wholly-owned division called the National Broadcasting Company and operated the New York stations and the two network efforts side by side for about a year. In 1927 NBC formally created two radio networks, the NBC Red Network with WEAF as its originating station distributing mostly entertainment and music programming; and the NBC Blue Network with WJZ as its originating station and concentrating on news and cultural programming.

Legend has it that the color designations originated from the color of the push pins the engineers at AT&T used to designate the affiliates of WEAF (red push pins) and RCA's WJZ (blue push pins). At various times in the 1930s there were several other color designations, with the NBC White, Gold and Orange networks operating in various configuration of the west coast.

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