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Research Guides

Milo Ryan Phonoarchive (CBS Radio News): Provenance

A guide to the Milo Ryan Phonoarchive of 20th century radio CBS Radio News broadcasts.

Extended Excerpt

Quoted from: Godfrey, Donald. “History Held a Microphone.” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies, Volume 3, Number 1, February 1973, pp. 13-16. Accessed 2016-04-01: https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/film_and_history/summary/v003/3.1.godfrey.html 

How does it happen that we have these recordings in Seattle? They are recordings from the network lines by the CBS affiliate in Seattle, KIRO. And in the 1930' s and 1940' s recording took audacity as there was a firm stipulation in the affiliation contract between networks and the station that everything carried be live. Even in the cases where a network program was rebroadcast for reasons of time differentials, the programs were repeated live, not as recordings. The war approached and the management of KIRO reasoned that an important part of what was flowing through the system was information of a grim history and it ought to be kept. 

This material, particularly the news reports, came at a time when the majority of the audience would not be at their receiving sets. A newscast originating in New York at 6 p.m. reached Seattle at 3 p.m., hardly a suitable time for the news oriented audience. The answer was a recorded delay, something ruled out in the network affiliate agreement. If KIRO asked for a waiver of the rules, the petition would be denied. So, on the theory don't ask for a ruling and none is likely made, KIRO went ahead without asking. Remember these recordings were made from glass, aluminum and its alloys having been transported to battle. The network carried, and KIRO transcribed, many hours of speeches, news reports, and special broadcasts. As the war continued, KIRO had a fast growing pile of transcriptions. Milo' s search yielded a rich choice of Roosevelt and Churchill propaganda. 

This search was the beginning of the Phonoarchive. In 1957, the CBS foundation awarded Milo a generous grant enabling transfer of the disc contents to tape. This job was completed in the summer of 1959, and in 1963 the HISTORY IN SOUND was published cataloging and annotating each tape. The publication of HISTORY IN SOUND set a precedent in the indexing, catalog- 14 ing and annotation of audio and visual material. Milo' s system, developed specifically for the University of Washington's Audio collection, has been adapted to a number of private collections. The Archives are currently working with the Imperial War Museum of London. Without HISTORY IN SOUND, the purpose of the Archive could not be achieved. This is witnessed by the inaccessibility of the material at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress collection exists in unopened packing boxes in a storeroom; little is known as to its actual contents or its present physical condition. It is the system cataloging that makes the collection unique. It is the only collection in the country to have been catalogued and thus available for scholarship. Requests to the Library of Congress are forwarded to the University of Washington.