The Golden Years of Radio 1941-1942
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The Seasons
GOld Time Radio chronicles each of the 21 broadcast seasons, (September through June), from Network Radio’s Golden Age, 1932 to 1953.  The lengthy and informative profiles of each season are concluded with an exclusive review of their Top 50 Prime Time Programs, as determined by Crossly, Hooper or Nielsen rating services.
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1941-1942 Season
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THE 1941-42 SEASON
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Ex-vaudevillians Jim & Marian Jordan ruled the ratings as Fibber McGee and Molly in America's first season of World War II.

The first 13 weeks of the 1941-42 broadcast season were business as usual and business was good.  Total radio industry revenues were approaching $250 Million and combined network billings were a little more than half of that - both new all-time highs ...  Adding to their future profitability, CBS and NBC finally ended their lengthy boycott of ASCAP music on October 28th, and settled for a fraction less than the three percent of revenue negotiated by Mutual.  The total loss to ASCAP in the nine month blackout - and savings to the networks - was a reported $2.5 Million ...  Untold millions more in ASCAP’s future income would be lost to Broadcast Music, Incorporated, (BMI), the music licensing competitor created by the broadcast industry.  

The FCC watered down the edicts contained in its Report on Chain Broadcasting and temporarily suspended its order that NBC sell  one of its two networks.  But Blue was already on the auction block and NBC had already established Blue as, “a separate and independent” network.  

Seven year old Mutual quietly became the largest radio network with over 165 affiliates and the network doubled its billings to over $5.0 Million in 1941. Its selling points were simple:  In addition to a steady stream of national and international news, many Mutual programs were delivered to stations on a “co-op” basis still popular today - the network sold half of the commercial spots within each program and the other half was available for local sale … Mutual lost its original marquee attraction when General Mills moved The Lone Ranger to Blue.  The show’s last broadcast on Mutual was May 1, 1942 - except on the West Coast, where The Masked Rider of The Plains remained on the Mutual/Don Lee Network until January, 1946. 

Of the four national chains, Mutual also displayed the most interest in static free Frequency Modulation radio, developed by engineering genius Edwin Armstrong in 1935.  Mutual’s New York City flagship station and co-owner, WOR, championed the medium in Manhattan with W71NY, the city’s first commercial FM station. W71NY pioneered a wireless FM network broadcast on November 30th, relaying its powerful signal to FM outlets in Philadelphia, Hartford, Boston, Schenectady, Mount Washington, N.H., and Armstrong’s own facility in Alpine, N.J.  It was the first serious attempt in a dozen years to link stations without telephone lines.

Two months before the 1941-42 Network Radio season began, commercial television was authorized by the FCC.  NBC’s WNBT(TV) debuted on Channel One in New York City at 1:30 p.m. on July 1, 1941. CBS owned WCBW(TV) became Channel Two a half hour later.  DuMont continued its non-commercial operation of experimental W2XWV on Channel Four … WNBT aired the first television commercial - the image of a clock identified by an announcer as, “B-U-L-O-V-A... Bulova Watch Time” - for four dollars ...  Lowell Thomas appeared in the first radio/television simulcast when his 6:45 p.m.Blue Network news was televised by WNBT.  

December 7, 1941, was a typically slow Sunday afternoon in the network newsrooms until 1:07 - then all hell broke loose. The first Associated Press bulletin of the Pearl Harbor attack - from Honolulu reporter Eugene Burns - sent the short-handed weekend news staffs into a scramble.  But they weren’t about to alarm a war-jittery nation without official confirmation.  Their frantic activity continued for over an hour while the last of the “peacetime” programs played on … At 2:25 p.m. - 90 minutes after the first bombs fell - acknowledgment of the attack from the White House cleared the wire services.  WOR flashed the news to whatever Mutual affiliates were carrying its pro football game at 2:26. NBC broke the news on both of its networks simultaneously with a terse, 20-second bulletin read by news writer Bob Eisenbach at 2:29:50.  CBS waited until the 2:30 opening of The World Today when John Daly read the bulletin ...  NBC, Blue and Mutual returned to regular programming while their news departments continued to assemble and attempted to contact Honolulu. CBS already had Daly and commentator Elmer Davis on the air with The World Today.  Standing by for the program were Robert Trout with reaction from London plus a shortwave  report from Manila where the Philippines were reported under a pre-invasion attack from Japanese bombers … At 4:06 NBC scored the first scoop of the day with an eyewitness report from KGU/Honolulu, the same station whose broadcast signal Japanese pilots tuned for radio coordinates to reach Pearl Harbor.

December 7th was the day when radio’s stature as a news source soared.  In February, C.E. Hooper reported that the networks’ prime time given to news had risen three hours a week since Pearl Harbor and like the war itself, the trend was just beginning … FDR’s address to the nation on December 9, 1941, scored an all-time high Hooperating of 79.0.  The United States was at war and Americans now depended on radio for immediate news as well as morale boosting entertainment.  The government depended on it, too - for dispersal of official information.  The broadcasters were happy to cooperate - they feared another Federal takeover of radio facilities similar to World War I, despite FCC assurances that it would never happen.  

Climaxing a climb that began in the 1935-36 season with a 6.6 rating and 62nd place in the Annual Top 50, Fibber McGee & Molly became the Number One show of 1941-42. Jim & Marian Jordan’s 9:30 p.m. Tuesday sitcom scored their personal high rating of 31.6, edging out their ten o’clock companion Bob Hope by nine-tenths of a point at 30.7. With newcomer Red Skelton’s program at 10:30, NBC’s Tuesday night lineup comedy block contained three  of the season’s top four programs. 

Because of a tie for 50th place, 51 programs compiled the 1941-42 Top 50.  NBC took over the lead that it wouldn't relinquish throughout the war years with 26 of the shows. CBS followed with 21 and Blue trailed with four.