Potent Factors in Radio Broadcasting

What significant changes have taken place in the field of radio communication during a mere quarter of a century!

By CHARLES A. RENTFRO, General Radio Accountant and Registrar, Washington, D. C.

In spite of major developments in the radio industry—manufacturing on one side, and broadcasting on the other—this phase of world endeavor is still very young. The best brains in many nations have long striven to master the intricacies of radio science and its accompanying arts, to make radio what it is today. Yet all admit that we are far from achieving the ultimate.

My first introduction to radio was in the year 1924. We had just returned from South America as missionaries on furlough. While we visited friends and relatives, someone at an institution turned on a radio. The results were disappointing because of static and imperfec­tions in broadcasting. Yet finally, in the course of that year, we did hear something out of the air, either from a loudspeaking radio or from a small crystal set and earphones.

When after another sojourn in the mission field we again returned to the States, in 1935, we were impressed with the remarkable prog­ress in radio. A certain doctor who owned an amateur short-wave station asked me to listen in with him. When he had contacted another radio "ham" by short-wave, he turned the "mike" over to me. I found myself talking to another man more than a thousand miles away. In a few seconds he had switched over and began answering me, by way of that two­thousand-mile circuit as one could talk over the back-yard fence with the neighbors. Truly, the world is becoming a small place. What significant changes have taken place in the field of radio communication during a mere quarter of a century!

We doubt very much that anyone could have visualized what a few years of time would do to radio broadcasting, and what it may yet do to frequency modulation and television broad­casting. One needs only to make a general tour of attractive Radio City in New York to ap­preciate how much effort goes into the making of a program before it is ready for broadcast. What goes on behind the scenes is still a great story of its own. For every hour of broad­casting there must be at least eight hours of rehearsal, and that does not take in the many other hours and days spent in critical program construction, adequate script writing, securing talent, radio effects and outlets for any par­ticular program, not to mention all the advertising and promotion which precedes and ac­companies the broadcast, and the subsequent follow-up work.

All this brings us to our own coast-to-coast and international program, the Voice of Proph­ecy, directed by our dean of radio broadcasters, H. M. S. Richards, and a large staff of asso­ciates, with headquarters at 805-811 East Broad­way, Glendale, California. It was on January 4, 1942, that this program became national. On October 4, 1942, it was further extended, and in 1943 began to blanket an entire hemi­sphere.

The broadcast of the Voice of Prophecy, now on the air in three languages—English, Portu­guese, and Spanish—is estimated to be heard by more than four million persons. Not even a king could command such an audience previous to the invention of radio. Potentially many more than that may listen to the Voice of Prophecy program, according to radio surveys. When Pearl Harbor came with all its horrors, it was a Seventh-day Adventist minister who stayed on the air, because the station managers felt that he had a message for just such a crisis, when all others were forced off the air by the more urgent news of the disaster which over­whelmed the inhabitants of the islands.

So there is no limit to the audience which may be commanded in an ex­treme day of critical events, if Seventh-day Adventists are but ready and are allowed to speak. The response of those who have written to headquarters indicates just that. All indica­tions point to a steady growth in the radio audi­ence listening to our national and international programs. This is borne out by the steady ap­peals which come to other stations beyond the 248 outlets in North America and about 6o more in Latin America which are now carrying the Voice of Prophecy program according to our contracts. Nearly every other day, stations small and great appeal to our energetic radio agents, the George C. Hoskin Associates, to consider the broadcasting of our program over their stations. These appeals are forwarded to the Voice of Prophecy, Incorporated, our gen­eral radio offices in Washington, for study.

The Voice of Prophecy program is a special feature released over the Mutual Broadcasting System : yet we are already broadcasting on 61 other outlets besides Mutual by special tran­scription shipped directly to each radio station, thus creating another network of our own. Program directors of stations who are not affil­iates of the M. B. S. network have auditioned our programs, and they have become deeply impressed with the stirring appeals which our music and message bring to their hearts-not only from the standpoint of entertainment, but also because of that other "something" which every heart is longing for today. They want the program even though it is aired by tran­scription.

It is difficult for a human observer to say just what has happened to the average Amer­ican radio listener's habits. Possibly it is a result of war and trouble. There is a distinct sobering tone in radio broadcasting and listen­ing. Never in the history of the world has the Bible had such a high place in newspaper and radio advertising.

When metropolitan dailies will print whole pages of advertising pertinent to the sale of Bibles ; when a weekly secular magazine with a syndicated circulation of more than six mil­lion copies will bring out a whole colored page of Bible advertising; when a cereal company will dramatize Bible events on a popular radio program; when the Bible is regularly read over a major network for fifteen minutes ; when a Bible or a portion of it is placed on every life raft of the aircraft which flies over the seas, then, we must admit, something is happening to change the thinking of millions.

Let us say, in humble admission, that it is the Spirit of the Lord brooding over the world, wooing sin-sick men and women to make their final decision. Millions are now going to their graves by violent death. "There are no athe­ists in fox holes," one of our fighting men said. A crisis in national events forces a new way of thinking in the course of human lives. And we know that it is God behind the scenes shaping events for what is surely due to come to pass.

A recent survey conducted in Iowa by ex­perts on radio listening habits gives a revealing cross section of the trend in preferences for radio programs during the last few years. Other areas of the country may be experiencing a similar situation.

(See PDF)

The survey critics make this summary of the latest changes in listening habits: "Trend Away from Entertainment. Al­though the war may or may not have been a contributing factor, the unusually large shift in popularity away from entertainment, toward in­formative types of materials, is interesting, and possibly significant."-"The 1942 Iowa Radio Audience Survey, A Summers-Whan Survey, University of Wichita," p. 44. (A survey con­ducted for station WHO, Des Moines, Iowa.) Of course this survey concerns itself with a great number of other phases of the listening habits of radio audiences, which also are very enlightening.

We have been able to standardize certain radio data in connection with our Voice of Prophecy program, along comparable denomi­national factors, and in this we find the follow­ing results:

(See PDF)

The accompanying table reveals a rather in­teresting fact. Those letters which were mailed directly to Box 55, Los Angeles, California, as a result of the appeals and offers made on the Voice of Prophecy program from January 3 through June 27, 1943, when broken up into union territories (as reported to our Washing­ton office from Glendale), follow the almost identical pattern of our Seventh-day Adventist membership throughout North America, espe­cially when these same factors are shown in connection with local conference membership.

The preceding factors would indicate that not only the union conferences have a share in supporting this great radio effort in connection with the wide support of the General Confer­ence, but that our local conferences have a very definite burden in further contributing to the support and expansion of this national radio effort. The local churches will be benefited the most, of course, as their efforts are co-ordinated by local conference leadership. We realize that the national program is not to take the place of local radio efforts, but that they may be supplemented by the greater potential results of a systematic and continuous airing of a national program which has shown just cause for its national and international existence, under our own laws and the laws of other nations.

This particular study of radio factors would indicate that the wide circle of listeners to the Voice of Prophecy program is very much in­fluenced by the attitude which Adventists them­selves manifest toward the program. And it may be significant that the system which airs our program has come to be known as the religious network, having experienced commer­cially a more rapid growth in stations and busi­ness than any other radio system sharing the air waves, probably because of the fact that it has brought to the small station a better type of program than it has ever been able to secure from local talent alone.

Can it be also because Mutual pauses for a minute of prayer at 6 P. M. each day? And when Elder Richards or his father prays on the Voice of Prophecy "for the radio tech­nicians and engineers who make possible the broadcasting of this program so that all may hear, and for all those in authority in our Government," can it not be that this goes di­rectly to the hearts of those who by force of duty must stand by at that solemn interval?

May God bless this and every effort which will contribute to His glory in the finishing of the work in this generation.

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By CHARLES A. RENTFRO, General Radio Accountant and Registrar, Washington, D. C.

November 1943

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