Thu, 05/29/2008

60 Years Ago-- "We, the People" Ushered in the Radio-Television Simulcast

In the early days of television as radio remained the dominant medium and television looked to make its foothold, several early shows were done as simulcasts on both mediums. We, the People was the first (on June 1, 1948) followed soon thereafter by such top radio radio shows as Arthur Godfrey Time. As described in Arthur J. Singer's Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster, Godfrey said at the top of his first simulcast (November 23, 1948): "This morning, we've got lights all around this place... and they're driving us crazy. They said, 'We'll come in, Arthur, and you won't even know we're there.' [He makes a face, thumbs his nose at the camera. The audience laughs. Then he addresses the radio audience.] For a penny postcard I'll explain that laugh to you folks."

We, the People began as a radio show in the 1930s known for its unusual testimonials of real people. When the show made its historic "first" as a radio-television simulcast, Variety, noted that the broadcast was preceded by a ten-minute ceremony in which CBS President Frank Stanton and reps from the advertising agencies that sponsored the show, cited the historic first of the simulcast. But, Variety griped: "In terms of depicting for home viewers how a radio show is run off, it could probably be classed as a success. But to call it a television show is a complete misnomer. With the single exception of a visual commercial midway in the program, no attempt was made at all to give the radio show a much needed TV Look."

Archive interviewee James Sheldon talks about directing We, the People (six minutes into