Boston and ABC Radio

Scott Fybush
Sun May 16 20:57:24 EDT 2010

Dan.Strassberg wrote:

> No Boston-market radio
> station carried NBC Radio's full lineup, but at one point, most of the
> NBC Radio programming that made it onto the air in Boston appeared on
> WNAC 680. That was part of the early stages of the rapid decline of
> what had been America's premiere radio network. 

NBC almost had a closer relationship with WNAC. I believe it was in 1960 
that RKO and NBC struck a deal to swap NBC's WRC AM-FM-TV in Washington 
for RKO's WNAC AM-FM-TV in Boston.

At one time, I had a stack of old Broadcasting magazines here that 
chronicled the collapse of that deal; it fell apart, as I recall, 
because NBC was in bad odor with the FCC at that point over the forced 
1956 swap of its Cleveland assets for Westinghouse's Philly stations.

That deal, as we know, was eventually undone in 1965 - but in the 
meantime, the FCC was evidently loath to sanction another swap that 
would have given NBC a bigger-market O&O.

The really fascinating "what if" of that deal is, of course, not radio 
but TV. Had channel 7 become an NBC O&O back in 1960, Westinghouse would 
have needed a new affiliation for WBZ-TV. At the time, the rest of the 
Westinghouse TV group was all over the map in network affiliation: ABC 
in Baltimore at WJZ, NBC in Cleveland at KYW, CBS in Pittsburgh at KDKA 
and in San Francisco at KPIX, so WBZ could easily have gone with either 

If channel 4 had ended up with CBS way back when, it would have 
stabilized Boston's TV scene back in 1960 in exactly the way it all 
shook out 35 years later: CBS on 4, ABC on 5, NBC on 7. If Westinghouse 
had gone with ABC (as I dimly recall to have been the tentative plan), 
that would have only sped up the eventual WHDH-TV/CBS alliance on 
channel 5. Would the 1972 affiliation swap for WCVB still have happened? 
Or would CBS not have ended up on channel 4 until the Westinghouse/CBS 
deal in 1995? And how different would Boston TV have looked in the 
nineties with 7 as an NBC O&O, not a Sunbeam station?

There are radio "what-if"s, too - NBC wasn't a big top-40 radio company, 
so WRKO would never have happened, just for starters. Then there would 
have been another shakeup when NBC sold off its radio interests in the 
late eighties. And NBC wouldn't have owned WJIB if it already had 
WNAC-FM, either.

We'll never know exactly how it would all have played out, of 
course...but it's fun to wonder.


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