Exhibit: Ed Craney—the Voice of Montana
KGIR’s founder, Ed Craney became fascinated by radio at an early age. While growing up in Spokane with his family, Craney was an active member of his high school radio club. Upon graduation he found work at a local radio parts store where he learned to assemble and sell radio receiving sets. Craney quickly rose to managing the store and worked with the owner Thomas W. Symons to start a local radio station in part to boost sales. Spokane’s KFDC was the nation’s 18th radio station.
Craney’s work for the store included traveling the northwest to increase wholesale radio sales. This included traveling to Montana where Craney saw a potential market for not only radio sales, but also for a commercial local radio station. In 1928 Symons Investment Company gained permission from the Federal Radio Commission to begin broadcasting from Butte. Craney moved to Butte and oversaw the construction of the offices and transmitter atop the Shiner’s furniture store in mining city’s uptown district.
Broadcasting began on January 31, 1929 but was at first limited to an average of 6 to 8 hours of programming a day. KGIR highlighted local professional musicians, actors, children’s groups and political leaders as well as national programing. Early programming included Howard Melaney (the “singing fireman”) of the Northern Pacific Railway, talks by the Marian White Arts and Crafts Club, the Amateur Hour sponsored by Symons Department Store, and on-air accounts of the 1929 World Series from the newspaper wire.
To meet the needs and tastes of his growing audience, Craney applied for affiliate status with NBC using the isolation of the western audiences as evidence of the need for national affiliation. FCC member and Montana Senator, Burton K. Wheeler, supported his argument. Despite corporate concerns about the small market, NBC conceded. Craney's work to gain affiliate status for the small Montana market is considered one of his greatest achievements.