1948: Television Arrives| January 5th, 2016By Todd NebelThe pivotal year in the struggle for the affection of the American mass audience was 1948, and the lines were drawn between what was the Golden Age of Radio and what would become the Golden Age of Television. By 1955, this struggle would be won hands down by television as America's primary entertainment source. By 1960, a total metamorphosis had taken place in radio, which was now inhabited by disc jockeys and newscasters — a situation which continues to this day. What were the circumstances in this climate of change which saw Americans so willing to jump on the television bandwagon? And, how far and high would Americans jump for this new "post war baby" in 1948? At the start of 1948, radio was the undisputed king in bringing entertainment into millions of American homes. Network radio programs of comedy, drama, music, mystery and news supplied Americans with their primary source of entertainment and contact with the outside world. Radio was the one constant which had always stayed the same — its celebrities and its programs were always there, like the old easy chair in your parent's parlor. Perhaps this was one of the reasons which would precipitate the winds of change that were in the air in 1948. Radio had not changed noticeably in years: its stars and programs were the same as they had always been. Perhaps the time had come to not only hear radio stars like Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor and Amos and Andy but to see them as well. Television wasn't the only change which Americans were experiencing in 1948, change came in the form of the Cold War, the Berlin Airlift, the Red Scare, Inflation, a housing crisis, a postwar baby boom and a tight Presidential race between a Democrat (Truman) and a Republican (Dewey). Television, along with other technological improvements which came in a flurry following the war, was but one aspect of the increasing pace of change in the lives of Americans. Television had been introduced before World War II with anticipated wide spread use expected in the early 1940's. Of course, the war ground to a stop all progress which television had achieved and only began picking up where it had left off by 1948. Production, technological development and interests by the entertainment industry, advertising sector, and American public reached a rousing crescendo in 1948, thereby creating a veritable force which radio now had to reckon with. At the outset of 1948, the network radio hierarchy which was confident and undisputed king, would, at best, by year's end, be wishing for a peaceful coexistence with network television. How quickly did Americans respond to the television boom of 1948? All polls and surveys told the same thing: television was no longer around the corner, it was here. New stations were constantly going on the air and applications for still more were descending in an avalanche on the Federal Communications Commission. And, as the television audience began to grow by leaps and bounds, more advertisers looked to television to sell their goods. New blood was now pumping economic prosperity into the television industry, as well as the rest of the country's economic future. In addition to the economic effect, television was also having an evolutionary effect on the social life of the nation. Early surveys found that people with television tended to stay home more. This cut down on their attendance at movie theatres and reduced the number of hours they spent listening to the radio. Television was found to be more exacting than radio in its requirements, thus demanding an individual's undivided attention. And, not so surprising, families who were found to gather around their television sets consequently forgot about their household duties! It was noted, however, that reading books and playing games were activities that didn't have to be ruled out if people were listening to their radios, as concluded by the Television Broadcasters Association (TBA). Moreover, the TBA also found that the average American household in 1948 enjoyed its television on the average of three hours a day, which further eroded time for radio and other family recreation. Video families, when polled, said 99% of them were happy with the purchase of their telesets and 35% said they were considering acquiring a second set. In regards to supply and demand, the TBA found th'at despite increased production of telesets, total demand far outpaced the actual supply of sets in 1948. Production levels of 62,000 sets a month were achieved nationally by September 1948; up from the previous level of 35,000 sets just six months before. As for the total numbers of sets in use throughout America, 515,000 were in use by September, 1948 which was more than double the figure of 200,000 just six months earlier! The TBA therefore predicted that by the end of 1949 an estimated five persons viewing each of the 800,000 sets would register a total possible audience of at least four million viewers! For an example of the new-found power which television was now wielding over radio, the advertising firm of Lennen and Mitchell produced another survey in 1948. It found that in homes having radio but no television, Bing Crosby attracted a 16.3% share of the available audience. However, in homes having both television and radio at their disposal Bing's audience had dropped to only a 4% share. The most surprising fact of all (or maybe the most disturbing!) was that Bing's competition opposite him on the television had been a wrestling match! Not all, however, were convinced that network television in 1948 was posing a threat to the health and welfare of network radio. Edgar Kobak, President of the Mutual Broadcasting System, said, "From the standpoint of one who has been a pioneer in radio and television, I cannot visualize in the latter a threat to the former. If anything, television serves only to offer a challenge to radio for its further improvement, a challenge healthful to both of these mediums of artistic expression. Radio will continue to attract and serve the interest of those of us not able through time limitations to isolate our interest on one focal point such as the video screen," he said. "Television, like moving pictures, demands undiverted attention, and there are relatively few who will find themselves able, in these busy days, to afford themselves the luxury of such undivided attention over protracted periods of time." Mrs. George Levison of Evanston probably would have disagreed when she reported her views (and the views of thousands of others) on the subject of television to the Chicago Tribune, saying, "Our social life has centered largely around television in the past year. We're happy to stay at home and have the children, neigh-bors, and friends around watching wrestling or some other show. That set has gone a long way toward paying for itself in the sitters' fees it has saved us. We've gone out a lot less this past year and enjoyed staying home. It's a great help in keeping my daughter Carol occupied, too. When Junior Jamboree is on I can just forget about her for an hour for she sits perfectly quiet, absorbed in Kukla, Fran and 011ie." For Mrs. Levison as well as everyone else, the fascination with television 1948, meant viewing lots of sports programs, old movies and the stations' test patterns which, incidentally, provided enjoyment for many first-time viewers. Regardless of the entertainment offered, a poll taken of television owners said 45% of them felt video had brought their families closer together while also providing the means of entertaining friends and neighbors as well. With the start-up of operations by stations WBKB, WGN-TV, WENR-TV and WNBQ-TV, television began its humble but significant beginnings in Chicago. Com-mercial advertisers jumped on board and nationally their sponsorship went from 23 sponsors in March 1947 to 225 one year later to finally 612 sponsors by July, 1948. By the end of the year, network radio would be feeling the full effect of a dwindling number of advertisers, an ever smaller number of listeners and a shrinking pool of personnel — from producers and directors to writers and actors (like Milton Berle, Ed Wynn and Ed Sullivan). By the time the smoke had cleared, Matthew J. Culligan, Vice President of NBC told Variety in 1958, "Radio didn't die, it wasn't even sick. It just had to be psychoanalyzed, The public didn't stop loving radio despite TV. It just started liking it in a different way — and radio went to the beach, to the park, the patio and the automobile. Radio has become a companion to the individual instead of remaining a focal point of all family entertainment. An intimacy has developed between radio and the individual. It has become as personal as a pack of cigarettes."