The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

Written By: Greg Howell - Sep• 30•14

On July 1, 1941, under the helm of William Paley, CBS and NBC began commercial broadcasting. Theater Guild charter member Worthington Miner was tapped to develop 15 hours of television a week for CBS. Those hours were filled with broadcasts of fairy tales, sports shows, quiz shows, and talk shows, and 2 daily news programs, one at 2pm, and a second one at 8pm. The official schedules released by CBS actually printed TP-CBSTest Pattern for most slotted half hours. There is very little specific information about these earliest, commercial television shows, but most agree it was often an announcer simply reading to the television camera.  Anything more ambitious was ruled out due to licensing restraints from ASCAP and other entities. No one wanted a part of television.

On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Miner was at home in Connecticut as he heard the news. Understanding the implications for television, he rushed to the New York studio to cover the story on air. At 8 pm that same evening, Miner set up a fan to gently blow a waving American flag under the hot studio lights, called in an announcer, and broadcast the day’s destructive, life changing news. Once again, there were few in the viewing audience to witness the historic broadcast. It is approximated that perhaps 2000 television sets were in use in all of New York City, but it was early evidence of the immediacy and potential of television.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor stunned the nation and changed the direction of each and every life. From that day forward, everything changed in television too, as the nation’s complete focus was on war. By May of 1942, CBS and NBC ceased commercial television broadcast indefinitely.