The Foote Files: Happy Birthday ABC!

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Now you know I typically write either about radio and records or shows that are on CBS, but today, we are pleased to say “Happy Birthday” to the ABC Television Network, launched on this date in 1948.

ABC was created as a result of a 1943 Supreme Court decision: National Broadcasting Company vs. United States Of America, 319 U.S. 190, in which the Court affirmed the right of the FCC to issue regulations regarding relationships between networks and their affiliated stations.

For years NBC Radio had two networks: the Red and the Blue. As a result of this decision, NBC was forced to sell one of their networks and that became the American Broadcasting Company. The two executives who ran ABC for years were Leonard Goldenson, a theatre attorney by profession, and Elton Rule, who was the longtime General Manager of KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

For years, ABC was a distant third in the ratings behind CBS and NBC. ABC Radio was a very formidable group of stations and some became very famous, such as WABC/New York and WLS/Chicago, both legendary Top 40 radio stations. WABC was the home of Harry Harrison “The Morning Mayor,” Cousin Bruce Morrow, Ron Lundy, Dan Ingram, and many more. WLS was the home of Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, John “Records” Landecker, Bob SIrott, and J.J. Jeffries. Many of ABC’s AM stations had great dial position with 50,000 watt non directional patterns, the maximum power allowed on AM stations by the FCC. And great long distance coverage with their nighttime signal extended by atmospheric conditions. That’s how I discovered the Big 89… WLS!!

When I got into television in 1978, ABC had hired Fred Silverman from CBS as its head of entertainment. By that time, ABC was the fastest growing network in the country. Their 1978 slogan was “Let Us Be The One”. In 1980, it was “We’re Still The One” using the song by the rock group Orleans. After nearly three decades, ABC was the network to watch. It survived with programming that didn’t break the bank but also at times geared toward a younger audience, like “Shindig,” “The Hollywood Palace,” “The FBI” and “77 Sunset Strip,” yet was the home for “The Lawrence Welk Show” for years.

Later, ABC was acquired by Cap Cities Broadcasting headed by Tom Murphy and Dan Burke. In 1995, I was working in the publishing division of Cap Cities when they announced that they were selling the company to The Walt Disney Company who has owned it ever since.

I had the opportunity to meet Oliver Treyz, former ABC Television Network President, at the National Association Of Television Programming Executives’ annual convention right before he passed away in 1998. He is credited for building the network’s programming schedule to be a formidable competitor to CBS and NBC. He did this by scheduling westerns, private detective and law enforcement shows and it worked. Mr. Treyz was working as a programming consultant for a programming syndicator when I met him. He could not have been more gracious. I knew his background so I visited with him and he shared some stories with me. He was very generous with his time, especially to a young kid from Dallas he didn’t know!

Happy Birthday ABC! See you next time.


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