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Friday, August 6, 2010

CBS Radio Network History: Network Formed in1928

The Columbia Broadcasting System debuted in 1928, The week of September 9th, 1928.

The storied CBS Radio and Television Network began its life in 1927 when the Columbia Phonographic Manufacturing Company (owner of Columbia Records) bought the nearly bankrupt sixteen stations of the United Independent Broadcasters Network. Columbia used the radio stations to promote its recording artists. The new radio network had an uphill battle to fight against NBC which was backed by the monolithic Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Columbia's salvation came from the makers of La Palina Cigars: William Paley and family. Paley learned very early on that the power of radio to sell products was immense. Paley acquired WABC (renamed to WCBS) in New Jersey and set about to create a slate of programs with popular stars of the day. Columbia Records was soon sold off, and a group of stations was established in Washington (WTOP), KNX in Los Angeles, KCBS in San Francisco (originally KQW), WBBM in Chicago, KMOX in St. Louis and WCCO in Minneapolis. These stations became the core of CBS Radio.

William Paley deftly acquired more affiliates by offering a better rate of pay for carriage of Columbia programs. He also filled his stable with major Hollywood and Broadway talent such as Bing Crosby, Kate Smith and George Burns & Gracie Allen, all superstars of their time. He launched his own news division and gave them the autonomy to report the news without regard to ratings or sponsors (this unheard of in that era). During World War II, Paley served as a Colonel in England where he met and befriended Edward R. Murrow. With Paley's support, Murrow later became the most recognizable and trusted voice in radio (and later television) journalism, making the network the leader in that field for many decades.

When television was developed enough for general use, Paley established the CBS Television Network shortly after the end of World War II.  For a period of time, CBS attempted to also compete with RCA in the development of color television, using a partly mechanical system. The CBS Field Sequential System was incompatible with the millions of receivers already in use, and opposition from the powerful Radio Corporation of America and the outbreak of war in Korea prevented this system from being adopted. In 1951, the famous CBS Eye appeared as the television network logo. Originally it was only intended to be used temporarily, but soon was adopted as the corporate symbol.   By 1960, all programming except news had moved to television. CBS radio newscasts and a few specials are all that remain of the original radio network as CBS went through several corporate acquisitions, splits and realignments over the years. William Paley died in 1990. CBS was subsequently taken over by Westinghouse and now is owned principally by National Amusements headed by Summer Redstone.