TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: McCarthy Hearings and Early Chicago Television

Re: McCarthy Hearings and Early Chicago Television

Mike Z (
Sun, 22 Apr 2007 02:01:10 +0000

PAT: please do NOT display my email address!

In Re: Exactly Who is Perverted, Patrick Townson wrote:

> In the early 1950's, when television was still a rather new medium,
> without a lot of programs to show, _all *THREE*_ of the televison
> stations in Chicago elected to telecast the McCarthy senate hearings
> from Washingon, DC on a daily basis that one summer (I think it was
> 1951 or 1952.) They started at 9 AM each weekday (because McCarthy
> started his hearings at 10 AM Eastern time), continued on until
> mid-afternoon when he stopped for the day.

The McCarthy Hearings took place in Spring 1954, as per information
from the Museum of Broadcast Communications website on the subject:

It also mentions that the ABC-TV and DuMont-TV networks carried the
hearings from "gavel to gavel", while CBS-TV and NBC-TV "bailed out"
early on, and instead carried highlights on the evening news and
during "late night". And it mentions that the Kefauver Crime Committe
Hearings were in 1951:

"Broadcast 'gavel to gavel' on the ABC and DuMont networks from
22 April to 17 June 1954, the Army-McCarthy hearings were the first
nationally televised congressional inquiry and a landmark in the
emergent nexus between television and American politics. Though the
Kefauver Crime Committee hearings of March 1951 can claim priority as
a congressional TV show, ... "


"The network 'feed' came courtesy of the facilities of ABC's
Washington, D.C. affiliate, WMAL-TV. Initially, all four networks
were expected to carry the complete hearings live, but NBC and CBS
balked at the loss of revenues from commercial programming. With an
eye to its profitable daytime soap opera line-up, CBS opted out
before the hearings began, leaving NBC, ABC, and DuMont formally
committed to coverage. On the second day of hearings, however, after
a particularly tedious afternoon session, NBC announced it was
bailing out. Henceforth NBC, like CBS, broadcast nightly round-ups
edited from kinescopes of the daytime ABC telecasts."

And by 1953, there were FOUR television stations, not just three,
and all four were indeed VHF, in the Chicago market:

- WBBM-TV 2, Owned/Operated by CBS, CBS-TV Network.

- WNBQ-TV 5, Owned/Operated by RCA, NBC-TV Network.

- WBKB-TV 7, Owned/Operated by ABC/United Paramount Theaters,
ABC-TV Network.

- WGN-TV 9, Owned/Operated by the Chicago Tribune, affiliated with the
DuMont Television Network.

WNBQ-TV would later change its call letters to WMAQ-TV,
to conform with their counterpart NBC Radio O/O in Chicago, WMAQ-670.

WBKB-TV would also later change its call letters to WLS-TV,
to conform with their counterpart ABC Radio O/O in Chicago, WLS-890.

This is all documented on several webpages at the Chicago TV History

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I seem to recall one of the networks
was originally on Channel 4, then later it moved over to either
Channel 5 or Channel 7 ... something to do with a Milwaukee station
which took over Channel 4 instead. Again, 1951 or maybe 1950. 'WBKB'
referred to 'Balaban and Katz', the movie theatre moguls who owned
the building on North State Street where the State-Lake Theatre was
located (and the television operation upstairs). 'WGN' referred to
the 'Worlds Greatest Newspaper' which was the Chicago Tribune. The
television side of WGN was always located at 2311 West Bradley Place
on the northwest side of Chicago, by Lane Tech High School and a
few blocks from Riverside Amusement Park. The radio side of WGN
however, was always downtown on (I think) the 18th floor of the
Tribune building, 435 North Michigan Avenue.

And Army-McCarthy was the really hysterical one ... old Joe, the poor
fellow, was indignant all the time about the large number of
'communists' working for the US government, and of course, homosexuals.
He would get all these government workers in for inquiry, ask them if
they were communist and or homosexual. As to be expected, most of
them vehemenently denied both allegations, at which point old Joe
would demand to know the names of all their friends and if those
friends were communist or homosexual. And if the government worker
'took the Fifth Amendment' (as many of them did) that got McCarthy
especially furious. Many of the government file clerks and typists
he interogated (and we did not have computers in those days, thus
the large number of file clerks, typists, and stenographers he would
question.) Almost all were males, and if they _dared_ to tell Joe
it was none of his business, he would go into a long bluster and
threaten the employee with being held in Contempt of Congress.
More than one left the room badly shaken up by the abuse they had
to take from Joe. And Joe would claim, "but you are on my list -- the
list here in my desk drawer -- as both; you were turned in by
(some unidentified person), so you better tell me the truth! It will
go a lot easier on you."

With Kefauver's Crime Committee, he did a lot the same thing, bullying
people around, but those guys all knew about all their rights; most of
them took the Fifth Amendment time and again. Typically they would
respond with their name, and every question after that was answered
with "I respectfully decline to answer on the grounds I may
incriminate myself." Kefauver finally got finished questioning one
criminal suspect and then announced to the audience watching, "This
is the first time I have ever had someone take the 'Fifth' seventy-
five times in a row. He said his name, but then to questions about his
age, his residence, his employment, etc it was always 'Fifth
Amendment, Senator' ...". PAT]

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