We have recently had an excellent demonstration of the value of the radio as a means of publicizing our work, in connection with the visit of Chief Kata Ragoso of the Solomon Islands. Following the General Conference session, it was my privilege to accompany the chief as he visited certain of our churches in the East and Middle West, to which he had been assigned. The newspapers gave him much publicity in pictures and stories, and Pathe had him pose for a newsreel sound picture, but I will confine my report here to the eleven radio broadcasts in which we participated.
The General Conference Radio Commission had given advance notice to several stations, providing copies of script similar to the network broadcast mentioned in the September Ministry. In all cases the time was given us without cost.
The first broadcast was over the NBC station WEAF in New York City. This station was at first reluctant to grant our request, but the appearance of an excellent news story in the New York Times helped to tip the balance in our favor, and we were given a choice assignment on this popular 50,000-watt station, which covers an area of dense population within a circle radius of 1,000 miles. It is difficult to estimate the number of people, but it was possibly millions, who heard Chief Kata Ragoso tell of the marvelous changes that had been wrought among his people by Seventh-day Adventist missionary work.
Marked evidence of the influence of the radio, as well as of the Detroit newspaper write-ups, was seen in the large crowd that came to attend the night meeting conducted by Elder C. J. Coon, at Detroit. At this same city, WJR, another 50,000-watt station, had given us a noon hour. The broadcast was in the form of an interview, largely one of the announcer's own guidance, but including several salient points. The tent was located at least twelve miles from the center of the city, but when we reached it, we found automobiles parked for blocks around. It was estimated that there was an audience of 2,500, or more; a large crowd stood outside the tent. A mission offering of $100 was taken up.
At Jackson, Michigan, another interview was given over WIBM. This broadcast was given at 11:30 A.M., after which we were taken by automobile to Battle Creek for another broadcast over Well at 2 P.M. This broadcast was no doubt instrumental in bringing to the Battle Creek Tabernacle a number of people from the city who did not usually attend services there. The Friday night meeting almost filled the church, one of the largest in the denomination. The Sabbath morning service and the six o'clock meeting that evening were attended by a capacity congregation. The congregation at the morning hour was the largest the Battle Creek Tabernacle had had since the Autumn Council, and a mission offering of $280 was taken up.
The Grand Rapids radio station WASH gladly withdrew a number from its prepared program and gave place for our emergency request for time. No sooner was the broadcast finished, than a long distance telephone call came from a minister of another denomination in a near-by town, asking that the chief might be permitted to speak to his church. This was impossible, as we were due in Chicago in a few hours.
At Chicago, two broadcasts were given on WJJD, a 20,000-watt station. The usual interest was shown by the broadcasting people themselves, and effusive appreciation was expressed for the privilege of having the chief give his message. Here an interview form of broadcast was used.
By leaving Chicago on a night train we had time for a night meeting at Omaha, and wired our people accordingly. When we reached Omaha at noon, we called at station WOW, and easily made arrangements for a curb broadcast at 12:45. In this form of broadcast, the announcer has the microphone on the sidewalk, of course, and interviews people who go by By prearrangement he interviewed the chief, and at the close of the interview made request that another broadcast be given from the studio at three o'clock. At the appointed hour the building was crowded with visitors.
From the close of this broadcast until the time of the night meeting, many telephone calls came to the home of Elder Leffler, pastor of the Omaha church, asking further information regarding the place of meeting, admission, etc. One church asked that the chief meet with their missionary society, and when I told them that this could not be arranged, they replied that they would bring their society over to our church. People were at the doors before seven o'clock waiting to get in. Much the larger part of the audience was non-Adventist. To get an audience of this size on short notice for a missionary meeting on a hot midweek night, certainly speaks well for the drawing power of a good radio broadcast. Here, too, a good collection was taken.
At Lincoln, Nebraska, the broadcast was given over KFAB, a 10,000-watt station. A large crowd came out to the meeting held in the Lincoln church Friday night, and to the Sabbath morning meeting at College View.
That evening we were delighted to view an audience of about 3,000 people. The governor made a beautiful statement regarding the marvelous miracle of grace which had been wrought in the life of the guest speaker and which had transformed the islands he represented. At the close of the service, as usual, the people crowded forward to greet the chief and to see the war club, idol, and other articles which he had with him.
KOA had graciously made several announcements concerning the meeting to be held in the Boulder church, and we found that church crowded to capacity. Another broadcast at Colorado Springs over KVOR the next day helped to bring an audience that filled the tent where Elder R. S. Fries was holding a meeting, with a large crowd standing outside. It was estimated that there were 1,200 present, of whom only 200 were Adventists.
The Denver station KOA has a radius that reaches to the Pacific Coast, and thus this series of broadcasts covered the full width of the United States, and sections of Canada, leaving only a strip in the South and possibly a little in the Northwest that was out of hearing. Who can estimate the number of people who heard these broadcasts, or their value?
Again and again our own people expressed themselves as being more deeply interested thereafter in missions and in the mission call for help. Who can doubt that the Harvest Ingathering will be made easier? Can we question that a favorable impression in behalf of our mission work has been made?
We found little, if any, difficulty in getting permission to broadcast. In every instance, when the broadcast was finished, the studio people were very expressive of their appreciation. It must be recognized, of course, that we had a drawing feature in the chief and his talk. Nevertheless the experience opens to us a little more of the possibilities of what can be done in broadcasting.
Surely there are other features that can be made attractive enough to secure broadcasting privileges. The visit of a missionary to the city—one who can give an interesting story about the land from which he has come—or the departure of a missionary to a field might be made the subject of a broadcast. Topics of current interest, such as uprisings in certain countries, startling news developments, and other matters of striking appeal could be presented. That the presentation has to be of sufficient interest to appeal to the broadcasting company, and to hold the audience, goes without saying. Such work requires care and real preparation, but this means of proclaiming the message offers untold values that should be studied and utilized wherever possible.