Radio Preachers Back in the Saddle; New Approach to Temperance

RADIO EVANGELISM IN ACTION: Radio Preachers Back in the Saddle; New Approach to Temperance

Once again doors are opening to dignified and sincere sponsored religious programs.

Radio Director, Western Advertising Agency, Inc.

The pendulum has swung back again! Once more the religious broadcaster is welcomed by radio station managers. Once again doors are opening to dignified and sincere sponsored religious programs. We recall the early days in radio when the steady dollars of religious sponsors were depended upon to support sagging station incomes. Later the pendulum swung again during war years of lush radio when regular commercial business swamped stations, and religion was cur tailed because it appealed to only a small audience. It was during this period that vacillating station policy makers hid behind their shield of public service, and made available only a portion of the F.C.C. required public-service time for sustaining religious programs. But today, as the pendulum is swinging strongly toward the religious advertiser again, there are many reasons why we should be encouraged to hope that this time gains may be held permanently.

Open time on radio stations should become more plentiful. With the return of normal business conditions, and strong competition from newspapers and other printed mediums, local radio will have to work harder to sell all time available. The long-term contracts of legitimate religious sponsors will seem very desirable to the radio business. Likewise, the inroads of television on radio revenue are becoming a serious concern in certain areas.

In all fairness to station owners revenue is not the only reason for looking anew to the religious field for paid programming. During the lean years of restricted religious radio through which we have just come, those programs remaining on the air in good spots were carefully controlled in commercial message and continuity. Programming improved as a result. The dignified commercial, with a free offer, proved to be as effective as the former pleading to bring in listener support. Radio men now have a more favorable attitude in considering this type of program. We can build upon this situation.

The importance of maintaining good station relations is being considered by religious broad casters. Because radio is such an important medium in molding public opinion, station owners cannot be blamed for judging more critically the methods used by ministers in dealing with them for time. Not always have such methods been above reproach. That is why station managements, upon being confronted with a request for religious broadcasting, have often immediately taken a defensive attitude rather than rolling out the welcome mat. This attitude was brought about by being disappointed too often in religious broadcasters who went on the air under acceptable format, including the appeal for support; but after a few broadcasts began to edge away from rules and regulations in their eagerness to pull more response.

Management realizes, of course, that every sponsor must be successful, or he could not pay time bills. And that is why the radio owner is tolerant of the religious broadcaster and his needs. But the real danger lies in stretching this liberality too far, and thereby forcing strict and harsh interpretation of policy.

Asking for money is always the major issue. Experience has proved without a doubt that a dignified appeal is more successful than an out- and-out entreaty for funds to keep the program on the air. Many local stations have always permitted a direct appeal for funds, and more are opening up on this policy. A regional network of forty-six stations recently revised its policy, and will now accept daytime religion and permit an appeal for funds. The trend is in that direction. But the immense gains of recent years could be wiped out by an unwise use of this new freedom.

During recent years sponsored religion, particularly of network stature, has gathered around itself a cloak of dignity and respect which was forced upon it by strong network policy in controlling commercials and continuity. Let us not drop it off! Why not carry into local broadcasting the same dignity and assurance, so that good programming, with a true message and spiritual inspiration, will be self- supporting because it will give the people what they need and want.

Rarely is a station manager influenced favor ably by pressure from congregations, or by sudden phone or write-in campaigns. In the smaller cities such pressure moves become all the more obvious. It is understandable why religious leaders who use these tactics to win their argument usually fail. Full recognition of the station problems, a businesslike approach to a problem, sincerity in all dealings, and a spirit of cooperation will bring better results.

Station relations mean looking at the other fellow's problem. There is always a reason why a program may or may not be acceptable, why a time period cannot be opened up, why your program may not produce a large enough audience to fit the schedule. There is an explanation why programming before and after a religious period is more difficult to sell commercially. Is it not the same reason why it is good business for the religious sponsor to sandwich his period between two popular programs in order to inherit a better audience? When we admit that the religious program rarely builds an outstanding audience for the program to follow, we see why stations must "block-program" religion in a time bracket that will not interfere with their regular audience promotion during the balance of the day, which is their very life blood.

To you as S.D.A. broadcasters, I would say that the following can be included in a station- relations policy: paying station-time bills promptly; maintaining a cordial contact with station management; cooperating to the fullest with continuity editors; submitting scripts on time and in good order; selling management thoroughly on program objectives arid results, to promote real understanding; building favor able attitudes by claiming partnership in the local field with worldwide Seventh-day Adventist achievements; and reserving contacts with radio management to those who know and appreciate the problems of your program. The local minister who uses these tools may often enjoy preferential treatment in radio station circles.

New Approach to Temperance

The series of weekly Sunday evening broadcasts known as The Fifth Freedom (freedom from the slavery of alcohol) have created a great stir throughout Hawaii. Sponsored by the Temperance League of Hawaii, these broadcasts were started a little over a year ago in the face of considerable disparagement from various quarters. However, from a listening audience of nil at that time the programs have so captured the interest and imagination of Hawaii's radio listeners that the present listening audience is conservatively estimated by radio station officials as being in the neighborhood of fifty thousand.

The success of the programs, it might be said, is due in large measure to the untiring efforts of a Seventh-day Adventist physician, Donald W. Hewitt, who is responsible not only for collecting the material but also for the major share of the script writing and the entire responsibility of its narration.

The programs are only of fifteen minutes'" duration, but are packed with interest. After a short introductory recording of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America," the program's theme music, Dr. Hewitt immediately begins an arresting true-life drama of alcohol. This is taken from actual medical case histories in his files. Names, dates, places, and other possibly identifying data are purposely altered to pre serve the patient's anonymity and to comply with professional ethics.

It is hard to overestimate the powerful effect these stories have, coming as they do from the lips of a well-known professional man. When the story has been related it is followed up by hard-hitting, cogent facts and figures concerning the liquor traffic, tearing down its specious arguments and pulling aside the veil of sham, hypocrisy, and half-truths with which it cloaks its nefarious activities.

The language used in the broadcasts never violates the dictates of decency or respectability, but it is sometimes vitriolic, often sarcastic, and always arresting. This style of approach has been found to have the maximum effect in arousing the attention and holding the interest of the lukewarm or indifferent listener. Having once heard a Fifth Freedom broadcast, a casual listener becomes a regular listener in the majority of cases.

 

 


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Radio Director, Western Advertising Agency, Inc.

February 1950

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