The Golden Years of Radio 1943-1944
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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.
Each synopsis links to the full and detailed article.

1943-1944 Season
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THE 1943-44 SEASON
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Bob Hope and Frances Langford toured the world entertaining troops and listeners followed them to the top of the 1943-44 Network Radio ratings.

The most historic broadcast in history began in the midnight hours of June 6, 1944, when most of America slept. Wire services began flashing the bulletins at 12:37 a.m., citing German sources which reported that the long awaited Allied invasion of Europe had begun.  Radio Berlin immediately began a running account of the early paratroop landings and bombardment of the northern coastal areas of France … After three hours of German reports, shortwave confirmation came from General Eisenhower’s headquarters in London that the invasion was  underway.  Then the networks went about the business of describing the 5,000 vessel armada crossing the English Channel with 150,000 Allied troops headed for the beaches of Normandy.

The “D” in D-Day has no definition, military or otherwise.  But it was the Day of Deliverance for  broadcasting from the shadow of newspapers as a primary source for news.  A special C.E. Hooper survey commissioned by CBS estimated that radio listening on D-Day was 82% higher than normal. President Roosevelt’s address to the nation that evening resulted in a 45.2 rating. 

Commercial radio had its biggest year since 1937 - both the entire industry and the networks enjoyed over a 20% gain in revenues. The paper rationing that limited newspaper and magazine advertising was part of the windfall.  The Internal Revenue Service also played its part, ruling that monies spent on advertising were deductible from a wartime excess profits tax.  Advertisers were given a choice - spend it or send it to the government. Most chose to spend it ...  During the spending spree, two previously unsold network series were sold for more than a million dollars each:  U.S. Rubber paid seven figures for The New York Philharmonic’s Sunday afternoon broadcasts on CBS which had gone without a sponsor for 13 years.  General Motors paid a million for The NBC Symphony’s concerts two hours later.     

Edward J. Noble was only 30 when he and a partner bought the idea for Life Savers from a Cleveland  candy maker in 1913.  Thirty years and billions of Life Savers later, Noble’s business successes included ownership of WMCA, a popular New York City independent station … During the summer of 1943, Noble offered RCA $8.0 Million for the Blue Network and its three owned stations - WJZ/New York City, KGO/San Francisco and WENR/Chicago.  Sold! … Under the FCC’s duopoly  provision limiting owners to one AM station per market, Noble sold WMCA and took control of  Blue in January … Noble then used the FCC ‘s duopoly edict to his advantage.  He went to work on West Coast Packard automobile dealer Earle C. Anthony to buy one of Anthony's two Los Angeles stations, (KFI and KECA).  With Anthony under the government gun to sell, Noble bought KECA for $800,000. 

Radio continued to devote more total time to selling War Bonds than any other single product.  The second highest rating of the season was 44.4, scored on Monday, January 17, when Let’s All Back The Attack! was broadcast on all four networks at 9:00.  It was an hour-long kickoff to the Fourth War Loan war bond drive with a goal of $14 Billion.  The 30 day campaign exceeded its goal by nearly 10%.

NBC and Philco were both pioneers in early television. The war had severely limited development of the medium, but the two companies accomplished the first publicized attempt to link two stations on May 25, 1944.  WNBT’s signal from New York City was picked up by a relay tower in New Jersey and pushed on to Philco’s WPTZ in Philadelphia.  In effect, television networking was born with the transmission - but it didn’t come without some labor pains ...  NBC’s Eddie Cantor appeared on television’s inaugural chain hookup and launched  into a duet of We’re Having A Baby, My Baby And Me from his 1942 Broadway musical, Banjo Eyes.  TV’s first “network” censors found the lyrics objectionable and cut the telecast’s sound midway through the song.  The act embarrassed and angered both Cantor and Philco.  In retaliation, Philco invited Cantor to appear on its Radio Hall of Fame show on Blue the following Sunday, May 28th.  He did and sang the song in its entirety.

The Top Five Network Radio programs in the 1943-44 season were comedies.  Twenty-two of the season's Top 50 shows were comedies - a new high of 44%. Bob Hope led the parade of comedians who logged countless miles to entertain the troops at home and abroad - and sell War Bonds to the civilian population … Sunday’s Top Five - Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Jack Benny, Walter Winchell, Take It Or Leave It and Fred Allen - finished in the same order as the previous season.   It was the first time that any night’s Top Five repeated in order from one season to the next. The same names would continue appearing in Sunday’s top tier of programs for the next three seasons with one notable exception. 

Fred Allen wasn’t  well.  His high blood pressure led to heart problems in 1943 and delayed his return from “summer” vacation until December.  Texaco covered the 9:30 timeslot on CBS with tenor James Melton and a half hour of light classics and standards that registered a meager 8.5 rating in early December.  In contrast, Allen’s homecoming show later in the month scored 20.4, his highest rating in five years.  He went on to enjoy his best rated season since 1939-40.  But by June, the burdens of his weekly show took their toll again. Doctors ordered Allen off the air for the entire following season.  

Blue lost a dependable weeknight Top Ten program when NBC took full custody of Lowell Thomas in January during Blue’s transition from a co-owned to a competing network.  Although his program was already broadcast by a number of NBC affiliates in scattered markets, his departure formally ended a 13 year association with Blue.  It was the first time that Blue had been totally shut out of any weeknight’s Top Ten … Thomas joined Top Ten hits Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, The Aldrich Family and Mr. District Attorney  - plus a host of other programs from Information Please to The National Barn Dance - who were all alumni of Blue and graduated to the more powerful NBC. 

NBC continued to dominate the 1943-44 Top 50 with 30 of the most popular programs, including eleven of the Top 15.  CBS added 18 to the Top 50 and Blue was down to two.