presents . . .

Behind the Scenes: Allan Freedman Remembers


(ED: Allan Freedman worked in Mutual's Engineering Department, starting around 1980.
He reminisced about his time there in an e-mail sent to MBSTS.
)

I was at Mutual when John Chanin (Vice President of Sports) started there. He held a big meeting and announced “great things” for Mutual Sports, some of which came to be. Like Mutual’s Regional NFL Networks. Besides the main Mutual NFL national game, we also had the Kansas City Chiefs Regional Net, with KCMO as flagship; Pittsburgh Steelers Regional, with WTAE as flagship, and Atlanta Falcons Network, with WGST at the helm.

I ordered all the necessary broadcast lines and phones for each game. Those games, unlike the national network game, were all delivered by landline to the regional station, from the respective flagship. Sundays were busy days at Crystal City. I was on-call all weekend for troubleshooting. Luckily, most things went well.

Saturday saw Mutual’s Southwest Conference football networks. There were three as I recall, and all went through the Mutual Dallas Bureau, on Office Parkway. Most of the college games were delivered by non-equalized network landlines. Some stations even took games by phone couplers. We had about three-dozen couplers in the Dallas Office. Every game was done by Mutual color & play-by-play guys, delivered to Dallas, and re-distributed to the SWC networks. It was a logistical nightmare. Every college town with a SWC team had a game (Rice, TCU, Baylor, etc), and were all handled by Mutual. Because it was college and the budget was smaller than for national games, the network consisted of lower-grade landlines (non-eq, which was about 3kHz bandwidth, as opposed to 5kHz and higher).

I “cut my teeth” on SWC football on my very first year at Mutual. After SWC, all the other events seemed easy by comparison.

On top of all that, Tony Roberts was out in the field with golf tournament after golf tournament, all needing broadcast lines and telephones. When we weren’t doing golf, it was Notre Dame football, another favorite of Tony Roberts.

In my spare time (LOL) I was called upon to reconcile the massive phone bill. Not only did we have something like $15,000 in leased phone lines and instruments, but we also had the gigantic landline network which constantly had stations being added or dropping off. Again, something I had to handle. We spent hundreds of thousands (A MONTH) for the landline network and local loops to stations. I had to reconcile that as well.

I later proposed getting rid of all the leased phone equipment, and purchasing our own . . . which came to pass. It was approved by Jerry Wallace & Marty Rubenstein. I negotiated with the local phone company to buy the infrastructure (cabling), purchase all the phone equipment, remove the old and install the new equipment myself. It was a lot of work, but it ultimately saved Mutual nearly $15K a month in leased equipment.

I also had the chore of working with the satellite department and changed many affiliates from landline to satellite. The satellite department worked with stations and installed the satellite dish and electronics, while I processed the cutover with the local phone companies (so the station was never without network connection). I even had a 12-foot Mutual dish in my backyard to monitor all the games!! Like all the other radio networks, Mutual was a very big client of AT&T Longlines. We had our own representative at AT&T NY, where all orders were processed.

For a while, Mutual was on Westar-IV, the same satellite as NPR. I believe we sub-leased some of their channels for a while, for backhauls. Mutual people like Gene Swanzy, Dr. Ray Rask, Gary Worth, Pete Nielsen, Dave Wilcox & Bill Wisniewski handled a lot of that. Rask and Worth were before my time at Mutual, but they still “consulted” with us and often came to Crystal City for meetings.

Also, when I was there, before Ron Nessen, Tom O’Brien ran the news department. Tom was a hot tempered guy, but very likable when you got to know him (or knew how to handle him).

Jack Clements was also a very likable man. I knew him when he was Vice President before taking the President’s job after Marty Rubenstein. The engineering department was going thru some turbulent times and I found myself sitting in Jack’s office, chatting about the problems. I could tell he liked me, because he always asked how things were going.

It seems that a good man was passed over for the Vice President of Engineering job (William Wisniewski) & was given to a woman who came up, I think, from Advertising & Promotions (Peggy Solomon). She muddled her way thru the job, but it was clear to many of us, she didn’t have a clue. Wisniewski should have gotten the job, but he was a little bit of a “rebel” & often spoke his mind. I liked him a lot. I reported directly to him; in fact, he hired me for the job of Manager of Network Transmissions, when Beth Robertson departed for greener pastures.

While I was only there for just about five years, those five years were key to technology advances for Mutual & probably financial woes too.

Network Transmissions was a sub-department of engineering. There were only two of us. Me and my assistant, Leroy Froom. Prior to me hiring Leroy, I was alone, handling everything from ordering broadcast lines, ordering telephones and telephone service with nearly every phone company in the nation. I even had a special Rolodex with ONLY phone company contacts. Internally, I was also responsible for reconciling all the telephone bills for Mutual and its bureaus. When I say the bill was huge . . . I mean it was gigantic. Before it was converted to magnetic tapes, a paper bill would be mailed to me. It was literally 4 to 5 inches thick; hundreds & hundreds of pages, detailing every single instrument and every single toll-call for each department. It took close to a week to reconcile the monthly bill. I got to know every tariff and its cost. You would be amazed at the tariff structure for telephone service!!

Prior to Leroy joining me, everything was done by me on paper with a typewriter and a fax machine. Somehow, we later acquired a desktop computer. To this day, I don’t remember where it came from. Anyway, Leroy mastered the computer and DOS operation system and eventually our work was transferred and stored on this computer. But we still had to process all of our AT&T orders with the fax machine (which AT&T called the DEX machine). Our order went to AT&T Longlines in New York City. Our rep, Joni Ahlheim, processed everything through their system and had local entities install our circuits or modify our network as needed.

Our network touched nearly every state. Where AT&T didn’t have a presence, they would hand off our orders to companies like WTCI (Western Tele-Communications Inc). They were a subdivision of the old TCI Cable System. They handled Mutual Broadcasting local lines and small networks in the Mountain States. It seemed cumbersome on paper but, in reality, it went like clock-work.

Leroy Froom was literally my right hand man. The things I used to do all by myself were made so much easier when he came on board. He lives in suburban Maryland. I still chat with Leroy from time to time via email.

It was one of the most exciting jobs I ever had.


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