NOTE: This post was not published yesterday as scheduled. I apologize for the delay.
I’ve written about television audio as part of Lost TV Day for three years in a row. Back in 2021, I published an article titled TV’s Lost & Found: Preserving Television Audio. In 2022, I shared a 14-minute fragment of a WISH-TV (Channel 8, Indianapolis) newscast from September 1972. This year, I want to take a closer look at my small collection of television audio.
I’ve written about parts of my collection already in a series of Adventures of TV Audio posts:
- Adventures in TV Audio: Theme Songs
- Adventures in TV Audio: The New People
- Adventures in TV Audio: Home Recordings, 1967-1972
- Adventures in TV Audio: The Story of Christmas (1963)
Since my latest Adventures in TV Audio post in 2018, I’ve acquired quite a few additional reel-to-reel audio tapes, some of which I haven’t had a chance to listen to or digitize.
Usually, when discussing lost TV programs, the programs themselves are what’s important, whether they’re episodes of weekly TV shows or standalone specials or documentaries or newscasts. Both the Library of Congress and Archival Television Audio, Inc. have large collections of television audio consisting primarily of complete or mostly complete television programs. Unfortunately, with the exception of the aforementioned WISH-TV newscast and the first 30 seconds of a WWJ-TV (Channel 4, Detroit) newscast, none of the reel-to-reel tapes in my collection contain any audio from otherwise lost programs. Maybe that’ll change once I have a chance to listen to my latest acquisitions.
However, many of my audio tapes do contain are commercial breaks. Within those commercial breaks are many commercials but also promotional spots, public service announcements, station identifications, sponsor spots, political advertisements, and more. Although not as notable as audio from an otherwise lost episode of a TV show, there’s a very good chance many of these commercials contain material that no longer exists anywhere else.
Network commercials and promotional spots and other content typically were part of network feeds. Local commercials came from advertising agencies and local promotional spots were edited by station personnel. Maybe there are advertising agencies with massive archives that include all of their commercials going back 50 or 60 years. But I doubt most TV stations have film reels or videotapes filled with local promotional spots from long ago.
This was timely content, intended for broadcast during a specific time frame (a day, a week, a month) and then probably never used again.
Voiceovers heard during the closing credits to TV programs were likewise tied to a specific day and time, inviting viewers to stay tuned for the next program or promoting something airing later in the week. Some of the programs on my audio tapes have aired in syndication for decades. They be available on DVD or Blu-ray or streaming services. But any voiceovers heard during their original network broadcasts are not included. Does ABC or CBS or NBC have a copy of every voiceover heard during the closing credits to every single episode of every TV show they’ve aired since the 1940s? Not a chance.
Listening to TV audio on a reel-to-reel tape is like going back in time and hearing what viewers would’ve heard while sitting in front of their TV sets. It’s too bad there’s only audio but having audio is better than having nothing. That’s why I post audio from commercial breaks and closing credits that I’ve discovered on reel-to-reel tapes, even if there’s no way to definitely prove a specific commercial or promotional spot or voiceover is otherwise lost.
I hope to start sharing more Audio Vault posts in the coming weeks.