NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, a broadcast controversy changes the way television covers sports. Plus, the death of an influential journalist and novelist.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: But first, after two and a half years of hearings and deliberation, the Tokyo War Crimes Trial comes to an end. Here’s Paul Butler.
PAUL BUTLER: Today, we begin on November 12th, 1948—70 years ago this week. Meeting in Tokyo, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East sentences seven Japanese military and government officials to death by hanging.
NEWSREEL: Before an international tribunal holding court in the former war ministry in Tokyo come the wartime leaders of Japan to be indicted as criminals…
Eleven judges from nine nations oversee the proceedings.
The trial reveals horrific details of The Nanking Massacre, as eyewitnesses describe how Japanese troops killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in the region.
Prosecutors charged 28 defendants with promoting a scheme of carrying out wanton destruction, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and perpetrating mass murder, among many other crimes.
NEWSREEL: Chief of them is Hideki Tōjō, facing trial in the same building…
The tribunal eventually finds 25 guilty—sentencing seven to death and another 16 to life imprisonment.
In the years following the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, allied nations also try nearly 6,000 lower-ranked personnel. Those proceedings result in more than 1,000 additional executions for war crimes.
Next, November 17th, 1968—50 years ago this week:
AUDIO: [Game sound]
The Oakland Raiders host the New York Jets during the 11th week of the football season. The two teams are bitter rivals. Both are divisional title favorites.
NBC hoped the national interest in the game would provide big numbers for their post-game programming: the debut of their made-for-TV adaptation of the children’s novel Heidi.
AUDIO: [Broadcast theme]
The football broadcast begins at 4 p.m. Since most games of the era were less than 2-and-a-half hours long, NBC schedules Heidi to start at 7 p.m.—and extensively promotes it in the week leading up to the game and throughout the broadcast.
Network executives communicated it was crucial for Heidi to start on time. So with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game, with the Jets leading 32 to 29, an NBC technician cuts the game and starts the movie.
AUDIO: [Sound of Heidi]
Viewers subsequently miss one of the most dramatic comebacks of the season. The Raiders score twice in the final minute to beat the Jets 43 to 32. So many angry fans call the NBC switchboard, it breaks down. When viewers can no longer get through to the network, they begin calling the telephone company, the New York Times and even the New York Police Department.
The game becomes known as the “Heidi Bowl” and prompts television networks to agree to broadcast games to their conclusion before starting the next program.
And finally, November 14th, 1990. British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge dies at age 87.
Muggeridge had been an agnostic for much of his life. He wrote for the Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph, then editor for Punch Magazine. He also was a successful television interviewer.
MUGGERIDGE: You see, my great difficulty is, if I get interested in a conversation, I say what I think about it…
Muggeridge converted to Christianity in the late 1960s while working on a documentary about Mother Teresa. He spoke openly about his new-found faith, using his notoriety as a platform. Many compare him to G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.
In an interview toward the end of his life, he reflected on dying: saying he found himself looking forward to it…
MUGGERIDGE: I love the idea of one’s life coming to an end. Curiously enough, it makes life infinitely more beautiful and full, really. Rather like the end of a day, a beautiful day, the last hours of light seem to carry the beauty of the whole day.
Malcolm Muggeridge suffered a stroke in August 1990, he never fully recovered, and died three months later in a nursing home.
That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.