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Nbc And The Innovation Of Television News, 1945-1953

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In order to begin broadcasting news on the television, NBC had to find the perfect format that could easily be understood by the audience. They started by experimenting with the combination of the method used by radio stations and the method used by theatrical newsreels. The news-anchor would recite the news while music played in the background, complimenting photos, filmed events, and headlines that were displayed on the screen. This program was first used by NBC in 1940 on a show called "The Esso Television Reporter" that was financed by Standard Oil.

During World War II, all of the progress that NBC was making towards developing a professional news show stopped by command of the Federal Communications Commission. Once the war ended, NBC started right back where they had left off and premiered the "NBC Tele-Newsreel" on August 5, 1945. Newsreels from theatrical companies solely supported this show. Although NBC was not pleased that they had to be reliant upon a company for their information because it was costly and hard to receive promptly, they had to deal with the setback until they could find a way to become self-reliant. In 1948, they experimented with a show called "NBC Newsroom" that had three men reading the news. It was similar to radio, but it lost the public's interest because the room "was very dull-looking and not what the public thought a newsroom should look like" (Karnick, 87).

At the same time, the theatrical companies wanted to create their own showcase, and they did not want to compete with networks, which was difficult for the networks because they lacked the appropriate technology. Therefore, in 1947, R.J. Reynolds and 20th-Century Fox agreed to a 10-minute newsreel called "Camel Newsreel Theater" that was shown daily on NBC. It only lasted a year because of poor quality, and Reynolds eventually combined with NBC film in 1949 to create the "Camel News Caravan" that was hosted by John Cameron Swayze. This program included newsreel along with a reading of the news. Although NBC was still looking for the most efficient way to broadcast the news, "Camel News Caravan" was the show that led the way to the formats of news-shows today.


When NBC began airing the news over television, they borrowed labor and equipment from radio. Soon the theatrical newsreels were added into the news programs. In 1950 the most popular newsreels were remote on-the-spot coverage, newsreel film, still pictures, headline shows, and television newspapers (Page 89). Incorporation of these elements set television news reporting aside from radio's reporting. The most popular elements of newsreels were also the most expensive and hard to obtain. While most of the footage was aired the day it was shot, this was a very difficult task considering the material had to be mailed or flown to the network. The expenses incurred forced the television network financially to rely heavily on their radio network and sponsors.

In the late 1940's and early 1950's, NBC further expanded their television news by developing seven main bureaus across the United States. The seven cities included New York, Chicago, Washington, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Dallas, and San Francisco, where the network developed exchange agreements with affiliate and independent stations for news film. This resulted in a need to expand the News Department both in staff (24 new photographers and editors were hired) along with equipment (38 cameras, 18 mobile units and 16 reports and correspondents).

In addition to the expansion in the United States, NBC established exclusive exchange agreements with newsreel companies in other countries. In doing this, NBC guaranteed that the newsreel material provided to then would solely be provided to NBC. These agreements were entered into without the expectation of immediate profits; rather they were to gain an early advantage over other networks that had not yet developed newsreel organizations. The newsreel production put NBC at an advantage over competitors. The viewers benefited from the agreements with oversee newsreel companies as well. Thus, strengthening these agreements would allow NBC to hold their advantage with the viewers.

In the early 1950's, NBC was not satisfied with the degree of coverage obtained by other networks. Since they wanted more film coverage,



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