Tuesday, May 8, 2018

From 1967: When ABC split into four radio networks


Back in January 1968, the American Broadcasting Company effectively split its radio network into four different ones based on different programme formats. My understanding is that as ABC weren't really allowed to operate four independent networks, they were usually not on air at the same time. Instead, the main ABC feed would shift between the four networks over the hour. Therefore, these four "networks" differed mainly in timing and style of their news programmes, with the remainder of the time programmed by affiliated stations.

The changes allowed ABC to have multiple affiliates in each market, which in turn allowed them to use their resources more efficiently. It was however quite a daring branding exercise, as the established ABC had to be replaced by unfamiliar and cumbersome names.

The four "networks" were given distinct symbols, designed by G. Dean Smith. In 1963, he had designed a "circle 7" logo for KGO-TV Channel 7 in San Francisco that was so striking that it was adopted by other ABC affiliates on channel 7 and is still in use today. The four radio symbols manage to summarise the programming for the intended networks in an abstract form:
  • The five arrows symbolised the American Information Radio Network with five or ten minutes of news on the hour.
  • The star stood for the American Entertainment Radio Network with five minutes of new on the hour.
  • FM stations would for some reason need their news at fifteen minutes past the hour, with an abstract "sound" shape for the American FM Radio Network.
  • The "swinging" circles were for the American Contemporary Radio Network with news five minutes before the hour.
The symbols were used in brochures sent out during 1967 to promote the changes, as depicted by Jeff Roteman's ABC News Page. They were also used to advertise the different networks during the '70s.




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