Article: WBBR-AM: A “Pioneering” Radio Experiment by the Watch Tower - A revealing history of WBBR- Includes the last broadcast - April 1957

by AndersonsInfo 17 Replies latest jw friends

  • AndersonsInfo

    WBBR-AM: A “Pioneering” Radio Experiment by the Watch Tower


    In 1922, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was one of the first religious organizations to enter the commercial radio broadcasting field – a technology that was still in its infancy. Shortly after going out over the air on the initial broadcast, the Watch Tower’s second president, Joseph F. Rutherford, gave one of the very first long distance radio sermons.

    That first broadcast on April 16, 1922 (from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) went out to an estimated 50,000 people listening in several surrounding states.

    Rutherford soon realized that the recent invention of long-distance radio transmission could be the very tool that he could use to spread his religious message to a broader audience. He quickly went shopping for property and radio equipment to set up his own radio station. With license in hand and the call letters WBBR-AM assigned to him by the government broadcasting agency, the first broadcast from the “Watchtower” radio station located in Staten Island, New York, was on February 24, 1924.

    The “Bible Students” (the name that Rutherford’s followers were known by at that time) believed it “exceedingly interesting to note that the first time the public discourse ‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die’ was delivered from Los Angeles, California, on February 24, 1918. Just six years later to the day (February 24, 1924), the ‘Watchtower’ radio station put on its initial program.” They felt this accomplishment was clearly due to God’s hand being involved in the matter.

    However, after only thirty-three (sometimes stormy and often confrontational) years of broadcasting, WBBR was sold to a commercial broadcasting company. The last program by Jehovah’s Witnesses from WBBR aired in April of 1957. The directors of the Watch Tower Corporation gave a number of reasons for getting out of the broadcasting field to Jehovah’s Witnesses – formerly known as the “Bible Students.” Witnesses were told that personal contact made possible by Jehovah's Witnesses making house-to-house calls were far more effective than radio broadcasts to generate converts. Was this also “God’s hand in the matter?” Jehovah’s Witnesses were led to believe that it was – at least at that point in their history.

    Now, in the early part of the 21st-century, Watch Tower has returned to the broadcasting industry in a big way – spending millions of dollars to advance their message through a technically different broadcasting medium: streaming video delivered worldwide via the Internet.

    What happened to their belief that personal contact was a better avenue to make converts? Is this evidence of God’s hand in the matter to reach millions of people to promote the Witnesses message? To listen to them talk, it is. But a careful look at the historical record of WBBR, and to examine their present claims, is quite a “revelation.”

    For those who are Watch Tower history addicts desiring accuracy, click on the following link to go to our WBBR history page for expanded information about the Watch Tower’s past as “pioneers” in broadcast, and multi-media methods to reach their members and generate new converts. There you’ll also find photos, video and audio resources.

    JUST ADDED: Full MP3 audio of the VERY LAST BROADCAST of WBBR-AM radio in 1957 under the control of Watch Tower. Be sure to listen to both parts to catch all of that particular flash in Watch Tower history when the now deceased speakers were so sure that God was with them and Armageddon was nigh! Audio is presented uncut and in two parts. For your listening diversion, experience a most unique moment in history.

  • steve2

    Highly interesting reminder of how JW organization changes tack and can make it all seem so lovely and reasonable. So the lack of monetary gain for the organization from radio broadcasting led to their selling their interest in it and it was reframed as the organization arguing that personal, one-to-one contact was the most effective way to disseminate their message. Fair enough - that was likely true when the organization's active membership was going through phenomenal growth year by year.

    But my how times have changed. Growth in the western world has been sluggish in recent years. And cart work is more likely to be a setting for JW collective chilling out with one another as people passby rather than an active, vibrant source of outreach to potential new converts.

    So along comes JW TV. Ta-daa! It all makes sense to JWs. But the historical record simply shows JW organization will do whatever is commercially viable but give it a lovely theocratic spin.

  • hoser

    The Watchtower had their liscence to broadcast pulled in 1928 because the Saskatoon watchtower radio station sold air time to the Klu Klux Klan and got involved in a defamation suit.

    Link doesn't work so you have to google

  • OrphanCrow
    hoser: Link doesn't work so you have to google

    I found this:

    In 1925 or 1926, CFYC entered the final phase of its life under the International Bible Students Association, which later became the Jehovah's Witnesses. As a boy, John Avison played the piano for Bible Students' programs at a studio on Hastings Street. JOHN AvtsoN: I used to be amused by the fact that the manager of the station was a man with, I think, not a suitable name for a radio station manager: his name was W. J. Tinney. They had a group called "The Choir of a Million Voices." Of course, they couldn't accommodate a million voices, but this was premised on the fact that they sold the hymn books. They assumed that everybody who bought a hymn book, all across the country, would be joining in. I played the piano for the choir and played solos. The religious part, outside of playing for the choir, was not part of my knowledge of the station at all. CFYC moved out of the building on Hastings Street to a very large house on Kingsway near Central Park [in Burnaby]. I think that was just about the end of the operation of the station. In addition to CFYC, the International Bible Students Association was also operating radio stations in Edmonton and Saskatoon and two stations in Toronto. These stations were the focus of a dispute that had a profound effect on the future of Canadian broadcasting. In 1928, the Department of Marine and Fisheries refused to renew the licences of the IBSA stations on the grounds that the Bible Students were using the airwaves to attack other religious groups. Although the government was acting in response to complaints from the public, the number and credibility of the complaints received were questionable. The only significant case of defamatory broadcasting involved two anti -Catholic lectures by a Ku Klux Klan spokesman who had purchased time on the Saskatoon IBSA station. Nevertheless, the licences were not renewed. CFYC Vancouver and its sister stations went off the air in March 1928. The whole issue was vigorously debated in Parliament and in the press. The government was accused of religious discrimination in the matter, and received a tide of letters and petitions in support of the Bible Students. The controversy led, in the same year, to the creation of a royal commission on Canadian broadcasting led by Sir John Aird. The Aird Commission's recommendations pointed the way to the establishment of the CBC some years later.
  • hoser

    Thanks for the operational link orphancrow. The watchtower has a sketchy past.

  • Still Totally ADD
    Still Totally ADD

    Thank you Andersons for the history of WBBR. I did not know it lasted to 1957. For some reason I always thought it ended back in the 1930's. I remember how they braged about how they used the latest technology to spread the word. Then they gave it all up to using a ancient way of telling people the so called good news. Now what I have seen and heard they just look silly on their new way of using the latest technology. Still Totally ADD

  • smiddy

    Whatever backflips ,flip flops ,about face,contradictions JW`s do ,it will always be because Jehovah is blessing his organisation.

    And the rank and file suck it up as new-light from Jah.

  • TheWonderofYou

    Robert Hatzfeld about WBBR

    The last old picture in the video is from about 1947 when Daniel Sydlik was assigned to work for WBBR. You can see him standing next to Grant Suiter on the right side of that picture. Notice, too, from the program listing for WBBR (earlier in the video) that Frederick Franz was mostly used for his singing back in the mid-1920's.

    Daniels voice

    Grant Suiters voice against the Roman catolic hierarchical organistaion


    WOL links

  • cha ching
    cha ching

    Thanks Andersons for putting that wealth of historial data together. The WT always has their slant put on history, how else would we know the reality of it all without such dedicated historians?

    Thank you!

  • HappyDad

    Thank you so much for this enlightening information.

Share this