Issue 2

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A Nation-Wide Strike
Interrupted Television For 13 Days

In March 1967, our television and radio programming experienced an interruption that was difficult to ignore. New faces temporarily replaced the trusted figures at the news desks, some soap operas storylines became unintentional cliffhangers, and TV Guide found it impossible to print listings for the week’s programming.

The reason for the disruption was a national-wide strike by the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (AFTRA) against the three television networks and about 100 radio stations. The strike mostly affected live programming, particularly news programs, soap operas, game shows, and variety shows as much of the talent, and in some regions, even writers and camera crews, joined the strike.

The principle issue for the strike was for an increase in pay for about 100 newsmen working at the major networks. Hugh Downs and Frank Blair of The Today Show, Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Peter Jennings, and Howard Cosell were some of the bigger names who were in the picket line.

Some shows had the luxury of being pre-taped so programming could go on uninterrupted. This worked out well for one soap opera, Days of Our Lives, which ran out of pre-taped episodes exactly when the strike ended. However, re-running taped shows of The Tonight Show became contentious between Johnny Carson and NBC. Mr. Carson contended that in doing so, the network had violated the terms of his agreement, and citing that as a reason, he temporarily resigned from the show.

<img class=”wp-image-408 size-full” src=”http://www.americanseniormagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/AFTRA_Strike.png” alt=”” width=”552″ height=”800″ /> News anchorman Peter Jennings, left, and sportscaster Howard Cosell, both of the American Broadcasting Co., picket ABC’s headquarters in New York. AP Photo/Anthony Camerano

To minimize the disruption, many of the networks improvised by using behind-the-scenes staff from executives to producers to secretaries for their on-air talent, the majority of which had never performed such tasks or been on the air before. In some instances, a research director covered press conferences, a sales manager in Chicago became an impromptu sports announcer, two secretaries worked as disc jockeys, and the chief accountant of one station was interviewing for the local news. On the CBS Evening News and the morning news on the CBS-TV network, Arnold Zenker, the program manager for CBS News delivered the top stories.

Although David Brinkley supported the union, his partner Chet Huntley remained on the air to broadcast the Huntley-Brinkley Report, and the perceived tension between the two hosts led to CBS Evening News surpassing the Huntley-Brinkley Report as the highest rating news broadcast.

After nearly two weeks, the strike ended just in time for the live broadcast of the annual Academy Awards. Oscar host Bob Hope’s opening monologue made many references to the strike, mentioning that as late as 30 minutes before broadcast it was uncertain whether the show would go on.

Television entertainer Johnny Carson is shown during a news conference in Ft. Lauder dale, Fla., April 6, 1967. The host of the “Tonight Show” has resigned because NBC aired re-runs his shows without his consent while he is honoring a strike by the members of AFTRA, a performers’ trade union. (AP Photo)

After nine days off the air and on the lam, Johnny Carson came home to NBC. All was forgiven. Johnny was for givin’ NBC the benefit of his presence if NBC was for giving’ him the present of their benefits—that is, a lot more cash and a little more say-so over who runs the Johnny Carson show Tonight.

The contractual spat was a building before the AFTRA strike confused Carson’s position (TIME, April 14). While it was true that he objected to NBC’s rerunning of his old tapes during the strike, which allegedly violated his contract by showing reruns of the program during an AFTRA strike.

1937

The first issue of Detective Comics was published and introduced private detective Slam Bradley, and would later go on to introduce Batman.

Alamy Stock Photo

The longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964, California’s  Golden Gate Bridge  opened with a week-long celebration. The official color of this American landmark is “international orange”.

1947

Library of Congress

Jackie Robinson played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, becoming the first black athlete to play major league baseball in the 20th century.

Getty Images

Su Lin (translated as “a little bit of something very cute”), the first captive giant panda in the US who was brought from China by Ruth Harkness, was on view at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo.

1957

Getty Images

The Cat in the Hat, written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), was first published to promote early childhood reading.

Alamy Stock Photo

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was telecast live and in color by CBS, starring Julie Andrews in the title role.

1967

AP Photo

The song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was written by Fred Rogers, who used it as his opening theme song on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Getty Images

The television sitcom Gilligan’s Island featuring Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Tina Louise, Dawn Wells, Jim Backus, Nathalie Shafer, and Russell Johnson aired its last episode with the shipwrecked castaways still stranded.

1977

Alamy Stock Photo

The Woody Allen film, Annie Hall, with Diane Keaton as the movie’s heroine, made its premier in theaters.

Getty Images

Performer Barbra Streisand and Paul Williams won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Evergreen,” from the film A Star Is Born.

1987

AP Photo

Televangelist Jim Bakker resigned as the host of The PTL Club after his involvement in financial and sexual scandals became highly publicized.

Fox Via Getty Images

Matt Groening’s animated television show The Simpsons made its debut as a series of short segments on The Tracey Ullman Show on Fox.

1997

The PalmPilot Professional and the PalmPilot Personal, the second generation of Palm personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, were released, becoming a precursor to smartphones.

AP Photo

At the age of 21, Tiger Woods won his first major championship and became the youngest-ever golfer to win the Masters Tournament.

2007

Alamy Stock Photo

The Discovery Channel broadcast the epic elevenpart nature documentary Planet Earth over five consecutive Sunday evenings, which was narrated by actress and conservationist Sigourney Weaver.

AP Photo

MSNBC and CBS Radio cancelled the long-running radio show Imus in the Morning after host Don Imus made offensive comments on-air about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.