This article includes photographs of Merlin Aylesworth (President of the National Broadcasting Company, with WEAF acting as the flagship station for the NBC-Red network), William Paley (President of the Columbia Broadcasting Company, flagship station WABC), and Ed Wynn, President of the newly formed Amalgamated Broadcasting System. There was speculation that the flagship station for the new network would have the callsign "WYNN", however, the actual station used during the chain's short life would be existing station WBNX.
An original scan for this article is located at Archive.org
Radio Fan-Fare, June, 1933, pages 18, 48:
New Chain Plan
A NEW nameplate now appears with imposing grandeur at the entrance to the three-year-old building at 501 Madison avenue, New York. It proclaims the building as the home of "The Amalgamated Broadcasting System" the new "third chain" which Ed Wynn is heading up as Prexy.
Enter and take the elevator to the eighteenth floor. There you will find a hum of activity. At this writing, carpenters, decorators, and electricians are putting into substance elaborate details from a set of blue prints which provide for a series of seven modern broadcasting studios, nine offices and various other incidentals to comprise a first class broadcasting station.
Return to the elevator and continue up to the twenty-second floor. There you will find the chief executive offices of the Amalgamated Broadcasting System. On the door of the president's office is the name of Ed Wynn, known throughout the listening world as The Fire Chief. It was only about a year ago that Ed Wynn and radio became acquainted with each other. They have been the greatest of pals ever since. Now Mr. Wynn thinks something should be done to give radio, and the radio listener, bigger and better opportunities. He has conceived a plan. It has become known along Radio Row as "Wynn's third chain plan." The idea back of the plan is perhaps more momentous than the chain conception. Many people have thought of a third chain and tried to forge one, but a radio chain is a gold chain and the metal is scarce in these times.
What is the Wynn idea? How is he going to make it work? Who is going to back him? What has he got to do it with? When will he get going? These and a thousand other questions have been reverberating beneath the great antennas that reach across the radio canyons of New York.
A few weeks ago Mr. Wynn invited the radio press (including the writer) to a dinner at the Edison Hotel. There he propounded the plan in his own language. Obviously it was a matter of great personal moment to him. He wanted to produce something permanent which would endure after he gives up a long and successful career as a stage comedian. He believes radio is just getting started and in its youthful ignorance and arrogance has wandered down bypaths of error.
"My idea," he said, "is to give the listener more radio and less advertising ballyhoo. There is one thing that attracts the average listener to his receiver. He wants entertainment. The spot on the dial where he finds the most entertainment is the spot where the dial will stand. So I want Amalgamated to give the listener a maximum of the best entertainment possible with the least possible advertising talk.
"I realize that the advertiser has to pay the bill, and he feels that he must have a certain amount of sales talk with his program to make it worth while. But I think he will discover by creating a fine period of entertainment, pure uninterrupted entertainment, that a few well chosen words at the beginning and the end are more effective for his purposes in the long run. So my idea is to limit the ballyhoo to thirty words--a curtain announcement at the beginning and the end.
"Then in the broadcasting station the plan for the whole day's schedule should be in the hands of the program manager. No prerogatives should be surrendered there to commercial interests. We contemplate a daily schedule of entertainment schemed to give variety from one program to the next. We shall not have one crooner follow another on the next program. The program director must be the absolute czar over his domain.
"As for talent, we aim to have at all times the finest to be had. We have been carrying on auditions for over six months and have over 600 names of artists who will be available for our programs. Out of this number we will be able to create a great variety of entertainment. The listener will know that by tuning in one of our programs at any time from 8 a. m. until 1 a. m. he will be able to hear a fine program."
This plan of arranging programs on the basis of the day as a whole, Wynn explained, would certainly attract a great audience, especially from the great number of listeners who have lost interest in radio because they have become bored with commercial announcements. There will be every kind of feature already found acceptable, he said, and perhaps a few new ones not hitherto enjoyed by Mr. Radio Listener.
Can sponsors be found who will be willing to gamble their advertising appropriation along the lines proposed by the Wynn plan? To that question the Fire Chief replied he already has twenty-seven sponsors ready to make the experiment. He would not say whether he had signed contracts. If he has, and really goes through with his coast-to-coast chain he will give the two older chains something to take into account.
Mr. Wynn has sold his idea to a number of other broadcasters who control regional groups of stations throughout the country. They say they believe the system will pay profits, IF . . .
And that "IF" is a fairly big one. They feel that Mr. Wynn is strongly in need of an executive right hand bower with sufficient force and business direction to put through all the plans according to established business methods. Ota Gygi, into whose hands have been placed many of the managerial details, is an artist, a showman, and no doubt fully capable as a program producer. Whether he will also have full charge of the business side remains to be seen, as it is certainly an extensive task for one man to undertake the double job of business manager and production manager. Mr. Wynn, at a dinner to the press on March 10, announced that Amalgamated would open within the next two weeks with nine studios going full blast in the Liggett Building at Madison and Forty-second street. Subsequently engineers found that the space selected was impossible from an engineering point of view. To equip and install nine studios for chain broadcasting inside of two weeks proved another technical impossibility. Now, however, steady progress is being made on the practical phases.
The chain, as it now stands, consists of the following stations: WCDA, New York; WCBM, Baltimore; WOL, Washington; WDEL, Wilmington, Del.; WOAX, Trenton, N. J., and WPEN, Philadelphia. "We have practically every independent station in the country ready to come in with us when we are ready," said Mr. Wynn. "There is one lineup that starts from the North at Utica and spreads down through the Central States to the South and New Orleans.
"Another chain of twenty-two stations has been offered to us which will carry programs from Chicago to the Pacific Coast. We do not intend to take advantage of these broader activities until we have tried out the Atlantic Coast group. We may get knocked down a couple of times but we'll get up smiling and go right ahead toward our objective, building slowly but firmly so that each time we take a set-back--if we must take set-backs--it will be only for a short distance. Then we will build back up from there."
A statement as to finances seems hard to get. However, Mr. Gygi told the writer that the following well known business leaders were on the board of directors:
George Fink, president of the National Steel Corporation; Fred Stearns, president of the Stearns Pharmaceutical Products; George Mason, president of the Kelvinator Company; Standish Backus, president of the Burroughs Adding Machine Company; Charles Francis Adams, financier; Paul F. Herron, owner of WPEN, Philadelphia; George Trendle, Detroit radio owner; and Walter Whetstone, New York radio station owner and utilities magnate. There have been rumors that Herron and Whetstone were not entirely certain of their permanent connection, and if Whetstone should withdraw with his station, WCDA, New York, it would mean that Amalgamated would have to obtain a new outlet in the metropolis.
There was a time when WMCA had been considered as the outlet in New York for a third chain including the interests of some of the individuals associated in the Ed Wynn enterprise. Now that the Federal Radio Commission has decided to give WMCA full time and broader privileges it is possible a new deal may be effected with that station by the time these lines appear in print.
It will be noted that Detroit interests are well represented on the Amalgamated board of directors. Mr. Wynn at the time of the announcement said:
"While in Detroit I saw one of the world's wealthiest men, who has been outspoken in his unfriendly attitude toward the Jews. I want to say that he gave me a cordial reception and I am sure of his support in this enterprise which means so much to me."
Afterward he was asked if Henry Ford was going to give financial support to Amalgamated, and Wynn replied that he did not think so. But when asked if Edsel Ford would be financially interested the question was obviously evaded, so that the inference was apparent that Mr. Wynn had promised to keep silent as to what kind of arrangements he had made with the younger Mr. Ford.
An opening date for the first broadcast according to Ed Wynn's new chain idea has not been set at this writing, although it had been announced both for March and April. George M. King, a former associate of Mr. Gygi in Broadway enterprises, has been appointed program manager. He says that he has 600 well-known stage stars available on his list. Schedules for each day of sixteen hours length have been arranged for six weeks in advance. There will be no transcriptions--only presentations by artists in person. Some of those named as being available for programs are: Alice Brady, Queenie Smith, Howard Brothers, Crystal Hearne, Ada May, Bernard Granville, and Florence Reed. There are a number of orchestras who have promised to affiliate with the Wynn broadcasters. Ed Wynn expects to participate himself when he is freed from his present contracts with Texaco.
This in general is the new chain plan outlined by Mr. Wynn. If Amalgamated (ABS) weathers the strain of early readjustments and finances hold out, as it seems evident they will, it stands a real chance to Wynn out.