This is how Pastor Robert Salad, recently from the Solomon Islands, described television: "Something belong carry him pictures. He go along another fella place." Whatever the correct definition, this messenger to America has awakened a greater interest in the possibilities of television among us than anything heretofore. Pastor Salau has without doubt appeared on more television programs and has been given more coverage than any other living preacher. He appeared twice on the CBS television network in New York City and at least once in most of the principal cities where he has visited. Besides appearing in person he has appeared via motion pictures on television in most of the stations affiliated with Eastern networks.
Many times in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities, people passing him on the street would say, "I saw you last night on television." One network executive said to me, "Since Pastor Salau has come to America it is getting to the place where I can't tune in on television, listen to my radio, go to a newsreel, read a paper or magazine, but what I come in contact with him."
A more appropriate time could not be chosen to stimulate our thinking along channels of television. This article in no way is an endorsement of the present uses of television, nor does it attempt to discuss the present programming for the American home. We must, however, face the fact that a new medium has now appeared, and that it is growing fast. At the moment it serves primarily the metropolitan areas, but as soon as the Federal Communications Commission lifts the "freeze" on new television stations, the coverage will spread.
As of July 1 the number of television sets in use throughout the United States passed the two million mark. The number has practically doubled within the year. Manufacturers, retailers, and industry chiefs believe that another million and a half sets will be sold by January of 1950, for a grand total of 3,500,000 sets. There are some 75,000,000 radio receivers in the United States. The ratio to watch is therefore the growing list of television sets against this larger figure.
During this past June, 1,433 different advertisers used television. It was an increase of 90 per cent over the previous month. The list of radio network advertisers dropped from 57 per cent to 54 per cent during the same period, and local radio advertising throughout the country suffered a strain.
As to the number of stations, June, 1948, found twenty television stations with 234 sponsors. In one year the outlets doubled, and the sponsors increased sixfold. Little did Lloyd Espenchied and Herman Affel know what would take place when they invented the coaxial cable twenty years ago. Both men are Bell telephone engineers. This same cable, used for so many telephone conversations, can handle two television programs at once.
Almost anyone can speculate on television's future. Conflicting opinions are present everywhere in the industry. No one has profited financially from this enterprise as yet, but it has and is revolutionizing almost every branch of radio. No one has yet discovered the correct format, props, and approach. Large corporations are investing millions of dollars in its development. The field is open, and the industry welcomes all corners and all suggestions. Wayne Wirth, vice-president and director of television for Van Diver and Carlyle, Inc., New York, recently said :
"For the moment the television boys can get by, counting on the novelty of the new toy, but thanks to the attention demanded of the viewer —far greater than in radio—mediocrity will soon dim initial enthusiasm and produce increasingly critical discernment."
In radio the only two elements one has to consider when broadcasting are sound and silence. Television adds a third—sight. A. Gordon Nasby, writing in the Christian Century (February 2, 1949), makes this comment :
"Television is here-to stay, another important element in the technological revolution 'which confronts the church with new opportunities and new problems. . . . To the television industry this event, it has been said, was as meaningful as the addition of sound to the movies."
One fourth of America's population resides in the area now served by television networks. Mr. Nasby continues, "The church, it has been said, has largely missed her opportunity in radio and is now well on the way to missing it in television." These words should awaken in us a desire to pool our resources and face the challenge. We must plan together, work together, report the results as we begin to use television. By our combined experiences we will take short cuts to success.
Already Westinghouse and General Electric have two methods for increased television coverage. In the June 20 issue of Broadcasting the experiment was reported by C. E. Nobles, inventor of "Westinghouse Electric Corporation's Sky Hook Transmission System." Mr. Nobles reviewed results of the Westinghouse experiments, which are now awaiting allocation action by the FCC. UHF (Ultra High Frequency) transmissions were received satisfactorily at distances up to 200 miles from the stratovision plane, with the 25,000-foot altitude minimizing shadow influences in rugged terrain.
The July II issue of Broadcasting announced General Electric's semiportable relay called "Telelink." These portable relays can be spaced twenty-five to sixty miles apart.
The Federal Communications Commission has authorized WMAL-TV in Washington, D.C., and RCA at Camden, New Jersey, to test' color television. A full-dress rehearsal of color television will take place before the FCC September 26 over Washington's National Broadcasting Company's WNBW-TV. WMAL-TV was given permission by the FCC to pick up and rebroadcast the color experiment being staged by WMAR-TV, Baltimore, August 17-19, in conjunction with John Hopkins University and Smith, Kline, and French Laboratories.
These facts should serve to stimulate our thinking Shall we grow with television, or be wishful thinkers when time may no longer be available? We need not plan a grandiose program. Thus far TV Hooperrating evaluates simplicity above extravagance. A most successful religious presentation by a TV network serves to illustrate the point. An actor sat in his dressing robe in an easy chair. His only "prop" was the Bible in his hand. He read the Bible so effectively that TV producers are still impressed and talk about it.
What better means could Seventh-day Adventists utilize to propagate our message? We could show a family circle reading the Bible under the direction of an instructor, who gives a Bible reading to them. Charts, slides, blackboard, chalk talks, are all means of illustration that are a "natural" to Seventh-day Adventists. What better medium could our Medical Department use to demonstrate the principles of healthful living. The Home Missionary Department could promote the Ingathering, and thus enter many homes in the community. Our worldwide mission program could also be featured, as so effectively demonstrated in the recent visit of Salau. The Publishing Department could present our books, and make it easy for the colporteur to enter homes later on. The activities of the Missionary Volunteer Department and our educational system could be brought into prominence by using our children and youth. The Religious Liberty Department, the Temperance Department, and others could find a way of expression through this unique medium.
May God enable us, in the language of pidgin English, to "carry him pictures, and go along another fella place!"