Would I be out of place to suggest a "religious soap opera"? I do not wish to be misunderstood, but all day long there are ten to twenty million women listening to this type of broadcast, and listening to it because no religious organization has provided the kind of program that would appeal to them. But I contend it can be done. It has been done on certain local stations, but only in very, very few instances, and no organization as such has taken over the program.
Now we ought to be just as clever as the fellow who goes fishing. I was brought up a fisherman. When we went the fishing was different every day. The stream was different, also the weather. So we set our bait to fit the fish and the day. In the same way when we are trying to reach an audience to bring the message of Jesus Christ, we have to select the bait to fit the fish. Thus far we have not begun to do that.
What programs do we have to offer the veteran, the school children, the puzzled youth, or the family group? Except in a few isolated cases, we offer them nothing. Religious broadcasters have done little or nothing to reach any of these groups. We are still fitting our sermons to the people who are sermonized to death. The others are neglected because the necessary time, energy, and ingenuity have not been expended to reach these particular groups of people.
For each radio broadcast you should pick a particular objective. If you are going on the air at ten o'clock in the morning, you should have in mind exactly the type of people you want to reach. If you are going on at four in the afternoon, you should know the answer to the question: Who is listening now at four in the afternoon, not just to me or my station, but who would be' at home with the radio on? I have to build my program to attract those people who are there to turn on the radio. Only when I know the audience to which I intend to direct my message am I ready to build a program. And you have to fit your format, material, approach, music, and everything else to that particular audience, because radio is a particular audience. It is not a general audience. That is why we have four networks. If you look at programming for 4:15 in the afternoon, you will find that with the exception of soap operas there is very little competition; and when the networks engage in competition, as CBS and NBC have recently with comedy programs, they cut each other's throats and permit a grab bag like "Stop the Music" to run off the other fellow.
So it is in local programming, if you have two or three stations set up in an area to get all the listeners. A part of them goes to each group to fit the type of program. You have to decide what kind of people you are trying to attract who may be listening at this hour, and build your program to fit that particular audience. Your format, your language, your subject matter—everything is poured into that mold.
There may be exceptions to this rule. I will give you one. Roger Holley went to Burlington, Iowa, to conduct an effort. His radio program was to be an advertisement for his effort, which is a good idea. He built a program of that type to broadcast on Sunday to sell his Sunday night meeting. He went to the station managers, and found that there was no time available. They finally said he could have seven o'clock Sunday morning. You know that one's chances to get an audience at seven o'clock Sunday morning would be very poor.
He decided he must have a better time than that, and the only way to get a good time was to build a good program. He would not build a program for a seven o'clock listening audience when the farmers would be out milking and the town people would be in bed. He would build a program for a ten o'clock listening audience, and make it so good that after the station manager heard it two or three times he would give him a more desirable time. That is exactly what happened. He went up there at seven o'clock, and from his first broadcasts he got a few letters. But the station manager heard the program, and said, "You can have anything you want between nine o'clock and noon. You have the best religious program on this station. I like good music."
Every radio broadcast ought to have a specific objective. I think the Voice of Prophecy type of program has no appeal except on Sunday, and has appeal on Sunday only at certain limited hours. On Sunday morning it certainly has an appeal, for that is the type of audience that is listening to the radio. But if you broadcast a Voice of Prophecy program or one of similar style at indiscriminate hours during the week, I think you would not be getting much of an audience despite what you may get in the mail. I do not believe in mail responses too much.
We all know Elder Tucker and his Quiet Hour. His is a program built to meet the people at about six o'clock in the evening, when he goes on the air. This program has been successful because he has built it to meet the family at that hour, and he has given them the type of thing to which they will listen. He has not tried to convert them over theoair, but he has had good success, because the program has been built for a specific need and built to fit.
What specific aims ought you to have ? If you were to get a list from me, I could not give them to you because your aims are determined completely by your audience, your community, and the time you can get on the air. And in addition, you must think what your plans are for that community in the way of evangelism. All these things must be taken into consideration before you can plan any program intelligently.
Are Adventists disliked in the district to which you have come? Then you would do well to put on a good-will program. You have heard of the Ford Sunday evening hour. That was a good-will program, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Very little selling was done on that program. It was stopped because of the war, but it was tremendously successful. Its object was to obtain good will. That program changed the nation's opinion of Henry Ford. You have heard of the Greatest Story Ever Told. You may not know that we could have had that program on the air. My personal opinion is that it is one of the biggest boats we ever missed. The Goodyear Company does not advertise tires on it, but it has discovered that it sells tires. As a result of polls for which it pays twenty-five thousand dollars, Goodyear has found that in areas where the Greatest Story is heard sales of their tires went up 30 per cent with no other type of advertising to draw the people. It is a good-will program, and it produces.
Are Adventists misunderstood in your district? Are they thought of as people who do not believe in Jesus Christ? Then go on the air with a Christ message and stick to it. Do not preach doctrine ; preach Christ, and in the process gain an audience that you can eventually exploit in other ways.
Is there a delinquency problem in your community? All right, then go on the air and offer something for the community's needs. In other words, tie what we have to offer to the needs of the local group, and you will have a radio program that everyone will want, and will listen to I would drop another suggestion. The aim of a program should change from time to time. All good religious programs are planned in series. Nearly all radio programs are planned in series of thirteen weeks. Everything is done by quarters. Our Seventh-day Adventist broadcasters would do well to do the same thing. Plan a series with a particular aim, and when that series is done study the needs of the community, and plan a new series. I think our broadcasters ought to do more of that than they do.
When I was a boy my father used to take me along when he went duck hunting. We had a blind down on the lake and decoys out in front. The objective when the wind was high was to get the ducks to fly and come in over the decoys ; and then we stood up in the blind, took aim, and fired. The first time I went down with daddy with a double-barreled shotgun I was the proudest boy alive. A large flock of ducks came in, and there were so many ducks I could not see the sky. I shut my eyes and pulled both barrels. When I opened my eyes from my reclining position I found I had not hit a single duck. Father's dog was retrieving those he had shot, and I was lying there rubbing my shoulder wondering what happened.
I have not forgotten his admonition. He said, "Son, those were mallards, and drakes have green heads. Next time they come in you pick out one of those green heads, put a bead on him, and shoot." The next time the ducks came in I picked out ,one, and fired, and I hit him. I had learned the lesson. As radio broadcasters you will have to learn it too. Pick out a particular audience, find out what it wants, carefully take aim, and shoot, and you will have results.