During the pioneering decades of broadcasting in America, the Buffalo area played a significant role in the development of talent, programming and technology. From the sign-on of the city’s first radio station in 1922 to the future deployment of digital television, the broadcast media have led the pop-cultural development of Niagara Frontier.
The non-profit Buffalo Broadcasters Association was formally organized in 1996 with membership consisting of media professionals and the general public. The Buffalo Broadcasters are dedicated to preserving and promoting WNY’s rich local broadcasting history, saluting and encouraging quality broadcasting today and in the future, and most importantly to promote quality broadcasting. Future plans call for a permanent resource center. During the year public events, lectures, and informal gatherings are held. Our keystone event is the Western New York Broadcast Hall of Fame Induction ceremony held every Fall.
“The Buffalo Broadcasters Association / Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Origin”
By Don Angelo 2010
It was November 1996 that a gang of broadcast brats got together for a social lunch to tell war stories and reminisce over some old scrape books. Herb Flemming hosted the event at Tops Markets new corp. center on Main Street in Williamsville. Attending those meetings was Don Angelo, Al Anscombe, Herb Flemming, Jack Sharpe, Dan McBride, and Steve Mitchell. It was so much fun that the group decided to schedule another session and then another. Soon the group grew to include Al Wallack, Jim Fagan, John Zach and Tom Atkins which became the first Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers board of directors with Don Angelo it’s first President. Al Anscombe hooked up with Gordon Hastings, President of the Broadcasters Foundation in New York City and we were soon the first of many local chapters of the national foundation. Within a year the group was on the road to becoming a 501-C3 non-profit organization.
Our mission statement says Buffalo played a key role in station development and was a talent pool for the national networks. Its purpose is to collect and preserve artifacts that represent its broadcast history and to honor the people, past and present, who have made life long contributions to broadcasting. In our first 14 years we have honored over 110 distinguished Buffalo Broadcasters with induction into the Hall of Fame. We have also marked milestone 50th and 75th anniversaries for WGR, WIVB TV, WLVL, WEBR, WNED FM, WDOE, WHDL, WPIG FM, WKBW, WBEN and WGRZ TV, WNED TV, WBFO FM, WNED AM/WEBR AM and WGRF FM.
Many “Prime Timers” are still here and can clearly testify to the fact that in less than one lifetime Buffalo has gone from a thriving major industrial metropolis to medium market status with a ranking of 53rd media market. Despite the decline, Buffalo is still home to 10 television stations and 28 radio stations. A smaller market with so many stations makes Buffalo a highly competitive market which accounts for the fact that we have so many outstanding, talented broadcasters today both on and off the air at all the stations.
As an industry, broadcasting is also young enough that some 1st generation broadcasters recall its beginnings when a handful of entrepreneurs were busy creating a communication system that would revolutionize the world. Men like Guillermo Marconi, David Sarnoff, William Paley, Lee Deforest and Frank Conrad. Working independently they could not conceive the impact their inventions would have on civilization in such a short period of time. Today, many seniors still recall broadcasting’s golden age when networks were born, a world war came into their living rooms and entertainers enjoyed immense popularity. They saw the development of television and in a few decades live communications surrounding the planet via satellite.
In the beginning, Buffalo was a major player in this young industry. After the first commercial radio station KDKA signed on in Pittsburgh, Buffalo was quick to follow when WGR went on the air and put Buffalo on the map in 1922. In its hay day, this great city strategically located at the end of the Erie Canal on the banks of Lake Erie was the place to be in broadcasting. It became the base and stepping stone as many careers were launched for some of the great names in American broadcast history. Leroy Fiedler, I.R. Loundsberry, Clinton Churchill, Foster Brooks, Buffalo Bob Smith, Jack Parr, Fran Striker, creator of The Lone Ranger and Buffalo born Tim Russert just to name a few.
Because of this rich broadcast history 14 years ago the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers quickly mobilized and began a campaign to locate and collect as much of the priceless, disappearing artifacts, film, tapes, vinyl recordings, broadcasting equipment, photos and personal memorabilia as it could salvage from stations and individuals across the region. Thanks to the generosity and a love for broadcasting, local businessman Richard Taylor built and donated a secure storage facility in his industrial complex on Elk Street in Buffalo. Enough Buffalo broadcasting artifacts are now safely in place to begin the plan for a museum facility that could rival museums in New York and Chicago.
Each year we now come together to pause and celebrate the people of Buffalo broadcasting in the home of public broadcasting at WNED TV which hosts our annual Hall of Fame event each September. Thanks to all our members, their families, our friends and all our Buffalo radio and TV stations for their encouragement and support over the past 15 years We look forward to honoring many more coming in the future who work so hard to make Buffalo a great broadcast city.