Perhaps only those who were intimately connected with our early denominational broadcasting can fully appreciate the full historical significance of the radio workshops recently held in Takoma Park and Saint Louis under the direction of Paul Wickman, secretary of the General Conference Radio Department. These marked a significant milepost in the development of the art of broadcasting, as well as a signal victory for the courageous "pioneer" individual broadcaster.
Some years ago such a meeting of individual broadcasters would have been unthinkable. Why? Such an adventure would have been quite out of place in our radio orientation of those days; because of the then-prevailing concept, and resulting policies.
I recall early attempts at such a meeting, humble though it might have been in comparison to the more elaborately planned and carefully executed workshops of today. If ever such a meeting of broadcasters was necessary, it was necessary in those early days of the development of broadcast technique and science. Feeling a great need for the counsel and help that the exchange of plans and methods might have given, a number of local broadcasters in the Midwest joined in requesting just such a meeting.
Finally, through the guiding counsel of several local and union conference presidents and their committees, the date was set, and broadcasters came from far and near representing several unions and a number of local conferences. An agenda was prepared, papers were to be read, with roundtable discussions of plans and methods and the "latest" technique in the broadcast of the third angel's message.
No sooner had that first meeting of broadcasters started than disaster overtook it. Entirely unannounced, certain elements high in leadership descended upon the unsuspecting broadcasters. Frowning sternly, they declared the ill-fated broadcasters' meeting adjourned, and sent the audience scurrying home with the rather ambiguous explanation that such a meeting had not been "approved." Its intents and purposes conflicted with the "policy" then pertaining to the individual broadcaster and his role in the face of the opening fields of the national network hook-ups, then offering their facilities to us. We were given to understand that the day of individual broadcasting was closing, that the time had come to "decrease," in order that national and international programs might "increase." Therefore, any efforts to perfect the technique of the individual broadcaster would be wasted energy, and plans to perpetuate his existence would be in conflict with the prevailing concept.
However sad this day seemed to the assembled local broadcasters, it did not mark the end for them, nor did individual broadcasting in that region sink into oblivion, even in the face of such forbidding circumstances. The brave broadcasters continued, and new ones joined their ranks. Years passed before anyone gave them much cognizance. Meanwhile they sought the help and counsel of their fellow broadcasters as best they could, even though these efforts were often frowned upon as clandestine. It seemed for a while that the deserved recognition of the individual broadcaster was slow in coming, but finally he emerged with full recognition and a degree of desired legitimacy. A new epoch in our thinking and planning for the local broadcaster had dawned. Attitudes changed, and soon the individual broadcaster's strategic role in public evangelism became an accepted fact. This phenomenon forms the background for the modern radio workshop, which soon shall be such a fixed essential as the colporteur institute or other types of workers' gatherings.
It is evident that back in those days some were right, others wrong. The vision of some was far reaching and clear; of others, distorted. It is interesting to view it all in the perspective of passing years. Winston Churchill has said:
"In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trait of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passions of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour."—Quoted in Life, March 54, 5949, p. 51.
Our great concern now should be, not what mistakes were made in years past, but how we shall profit by these in utilizing to the full the tremendous power that radio offers us today. As our radio broadcasting comes of age the radio workshop will bring an abundant train of blessings to the individual broadcaster. What a pity these could not have been offered to the broadcaster ten years ago. What progress might have been made ! But even now it is not too late to utilize this potential to its fullest degree.