It may come as a surprise to many to realize that, proportionately speaking, very few countries outside the Western Hemisphere permit religious broadcasts. Aside from such tiny independent countries as Luxembourg and Monte Carlo, most European countries maintain a "closed-door" policy toward religious programs, with the exception of official or state church programs in some places. Africa, the Near East, and many of the Asiatic and Far Eastern countries, with few exceptions, prohibit religious broadcasting entirely. Even in the Western Hemisphere there are countries where religious programs are prohibited by constitutional law or by governmental decree; and in as many more it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain on the air. It is hard to believe that this situation will improve as long as religious intolerance is on the increase and world conditions in general are becoming more critical.
Does this mean, then, that the use of radio facilities in reaching the great masses of these countries need remain closed to us indefinitely? Not at all. The solution to this problem comes in adapting our concept of broadcasting to meet these circumstances, and in producing programs that will prove acceptable under such restrictions. This necessity constitutes perhaps the greatest challenge facing us today in our attempt to utilize the marvelous facilities of radio in quickly reaching the masses of "every nation, kindred, tongue and people" with the third angel's message.
We have sought to meet this challenge in the Inter-American Division by developing a new type of health broadcast, which after five years is now playing a very strategic role in our radio evangelism in certain countries where conditions make it difficult or impossible to broad cast our regular denominational religious programs. This constitutes perhaps the first major attempt in our history to reach the millions of radioland with a health broadcast on a national or international scale. Basically, the purpose of this program is to teach the same principles of healthful living by radio as are taught by our health publications, sanitariums, and hospitals. It is proving to be a very effective way of reaching the masses, even under most forbidding circumstances. Certainly the instruction of the Spirit of prophecy is clear on the importance of our health message and the role it should play in public evangelism. It is proving to be a most effective means of breaking down prejudice and opening doors otherwise closed to the gospel.
Inasmuch as the program, by its very nature, is classified as a nonreligious broadcast, we have no difficulty in broadcasting it; in fact, it is welcomed by radio stations and government officials as a worthy public health project. In most instances it is broadcast free of charge through the courtesy of radio stations or business firms who sponsor it as their own public health service.
Perhaps the wide acceptance of the program can be attributed, at least in part, to the new style format that has been developed. This has come about as the result of much research and courageous experimentation. In an effort to combine the very finest elements of listener-appeal found in modern radio programming with the spirit and dignity of our health message, a unique broadcast plan has resulted. Each program consists of a true-to-life experience, complete in itself, based on a typical health or home problem. The teaching impact is heightened by using the successful formula of the problem, solution, and lesson type of format enhanced by the basic contrast element of the ideal versus the undesirable.
This plan is carefully developed by casting two typical "radio families," one representing the ideal home, the other, the undesirable. The family doctor, community nurse, and school- teacher also play an important role in the search for health and happiness by the members of this unique radio cast. Consequently, each program is developed by dialog, with appropriate sound effects and bridge music. This type of program has proved highly acceptable to the radio stations, and has attracted a maxi mum listening audience, inasmuch as its interest is universal and appeals to all members of the family.
The primary objective of the broadcast is to invite its listeners to enroll in a health correspondence course. These health lessons, as pre pared by the Medical Department* of the General Conference, are carefully arranged to develop the progressive interest of the student and lead to an appreciation of the importance of a correct spiritual orientation and its relationship to health and happiness. As a result the larger percentage who finish the course are eager to continue their study in the regular Bible correspondence courses which follow.
Such an approach seems to break down prejudice, build confidence, and prepare the way for a more ready acceptance of the doctrinal subjects which follow. After more than five years of broadcast experience it is strikingly evident that this approach is giving gratifying results in baptisms. In the more conservative or fanatical countries we have reason to believe that it is actually more effective than the straight religious approach as used in our reg ular denominational broadcast.
In an effort to correctly appraise the results to date, a very careful comparative study has been made of the results in baptisms in com parable fields where the two types of broad casts have simultaneously been used. In the first, which we shall designate as "Field A," conditions are very favorable, and consequently the religious program has been released on a group of large powerful stations covering more or less the same population area. In the second, which we shall designate as "Field B," conditions are so unfavorable and difficult that the health broadcast has been used as an alternative. The results are almost the opposite of what would naturally be expected. In Field a only 7 percent of the graduates were baptized, whereas in Field B, 63 percent of the graduates of the Bible school were baptized. These percentages represent 493 baptisms for Field A, in contrast to 856 for Field B, or almost two to one. Only 21 per cent of the students remain active in Field A in comparison to 35 percent in Field B. In Field B, 51 percent of the graduates of the health course began their study in the doctrinal courses in comparison to an average of 20 percent of the names received from all other sources.
The foregoing figures indicate that as a contributor of definitely interested students to the Bible courses the health broadcast is making its greatest direct contribution. Consequently, when considered on the basis of its contribution to, and combination with, the Bible courses on a comparative basis, it is giving very satisfactory results; in fact, results far greater than our fondest anticipations, especially when consideration is given to the unfavorable circumstances under which such a plan has been operating in comparison to Field A.
Perhaps this broadcast plan, as it may be further developed and translated into other languages, will fill the need for a broadcast that can be released in all countries where it is now impossible to broadcast a religious program. It holds possibilities for adaptation to television. Who knows but that our health program will, on the wings of radio, yet reach earth's millions with its message of healing, and thus serve in its rightful role in opening closed doors for the acceptance of God's last message to the world for this hour?