Radio stars (Oct 1938)

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W+IAT T-HE LISTENED Forecasting the shows and entertainers, new and BY WILLARD MARSHALL 13 (I) Al Jolson. (2) Kate Smith. (3) Burns and Al- len. (4) Andre Koste- lanetr. (5) Al Pearce. (6) Lucille Manners. (7) Don Ameche. (8) Jack Haley. RADIO, at the moment, is starting a new fall season without a single sign of new personalities or new program ideas on the horizon. The only change in evidence: Salaries of the great stars are skyrocket- ing to still loftier levels. Sponsors are paying through the nose this year for their conservatism of the past few seasons. An evening network pro- gram is so expensive, they hesitate to gamble with untested talent. Experiments have been confined mainly to trying stage and screen notables. Salary levels at dizzy altitudes were in- evitable. No new stars were developed, so the old ones found themselves in a po- sition to drive harder and harder bargains. Eight of this fall's programs cost in excess of $10,000 each, per week, for talent alone, with station time bills of approxi- mately $15,000 piled on top of that. The eight: Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen, Major Bowes, Fred Waring, Metro -Goldwyn- Mayer hour and Charlie McCarthy hour. That means an expense of $25,000 or more per week for a radio program, an item that will stagger any but the very largest advertisers. Any sort of an eve- ning half-hour equipped with good star names will run to around $10,000 or $15,000 minimum, if the country is to be covered from Coast to Coast. One new trend was created last sea- son by sponsors who wanted to invest more moderately. They started the current rash of ques- tion-and-answer, audience and contest programs. This sea- son is bringing on more of those than ever. Material is inexpen- sive. Listeners will supply it for nothing or for small cash prizes. A man with fluent tongue and life-of-the-party spirit can conduct the programs with the assistance of an announcer. The salary list will range around $500 to a $1,000 a week, instead of ten times that. The gradual stagnation of radio pro- gram ideas is not a development the net- work officials are taking lightly. One Columbia Broadcasting System vice president, who asked that he remain nameless, discussed the turn with me. "It's a worry, but so far it has not been too serious," he said. "In the sus- taining programs that we produce our- selves, we believe we can strike a balance, ringing in new ideas of our own along with symphonic and serious dramatic programs." His network, he went on, has the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orches- tra, the orchestras led by Victor Bay and Howard Barlow, and the Saturday eve- ning Columbia Workshop, to mention just a few highlights. The obvious objection to that argu- ment was that the radio business is im- proving as the years roll on, which means fewer and fewer vacant spots into which the networks can insert these bal- ancing shows. The new sponsors coming in are seeking the same hackneyed style of entertainment that the rest present. "That's the problem we are getting ready to face," he replied. Getting down to more definite pros- pects of what will be happening on the loud speakers this fall and winter— you'll have last season's list of comedians back intact. So far, no prospects of anyone new. The only new face in this division, since the rise of Charlie Mc- Carthy two years ago, is Tommy Riggs. He and his other voice, Betty Lou, have been graduated, like Charlie, and this fall 30