The Public Radio Study was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The Ford Foundation at an important time for the medium. We have tried to gain a feeling for noncommercial educational radio and its problems, to get from the station managers and others who work in the medium something of their attitudes toward their field and its future, and to make recommendations to meet some of the problems we encountered in our field work.
First, we tried to put noncommercial radio in perspective in a period which has seen great changes in the roles of media. Radio, like all other media, was affected by the advent of television. Massive adjustments to the new conditions resulting from the video boom had to be made by commercial radio; they were made, and radio has entered a period of unparalleled affluence.
There is enormous loyalty to the medium and to favorite stations on the part of the radio audience. It selects favorite stations, tunes to them when it wants the service they offer almost continuously, and is wooed away only by effective promotion by other stations. Defining itself chiefly as a personal and familiar daytime medium, commercial radio alone among other media has managed to increase its share of advertising revenues during the TV-dominated decade of the 1960’s. It has throughout its period of readjustment maintained excellent internal organization and communication; the decline in influence of the national radio networks and the increasing localization of the medium have not prevented radio from keeping its internal ties effective.
FM radio is growing, though it is still weaker than AM. Its audience figures, its employment and financial structures, and the pattern of its coverage are all appreciably poorer than those of AM radio. But since the FCC ruling against simulcasting in the larger cities, FM has made great strides toward becoming a truly mass medium. Like AM, it has begun to compete for increasingly small and well-defined shares of increasingly fractionated audiences. Despite its cost, research is increasingly important in defining these audiences in meaningful demographic terms.
Educational radio has added new stations at an impressive rate, but it has not shared in full the success of its commercial counterpart. Its shares of audience remain very small, and no station in a top market rates a share as high as 3%, even at peak times. The audience of many educational stations was found to be composed largely of older people, but it was more common to find them too small to define in accurate demographic terms. Noncommercial radio is weakened by problems of internal organization and financing within the individual licensee, and by structural and funding problems for the medium as a whole. Low budgets and other factors have made recruiting of personnel a problem for most stations. These problems complicate the job of the station manager, who is often forced to operate under the pressure of time-consuming responsibilities outside the station.
As it was charged to do by the CPB and the Foundation, The Study has presented a set of recommendations to deal with the problems we found. They are presented in Section IV of this report, on pages 96-124.[see text] Included is a plan, prepared for the Study by Kear & Kennedy, consulting engineers in Washington, D.C., for a proposed system of re allocation of the spectrum space reserved for educational radio. This reallocation is intended to present a method for expanding the service potential of noncommercial radio by making more efficient its use of its limited channel space.
The second group of recommendations (Nos. 4-10) deals with the role which we feel that the CPB should play in educational radio and the best way to play that role. [text] Here the most important recommendation is No. 4, which proposes the establishment of a permanent Radio Division within the Corporation, headed by a high-ranking executive and designed to serve as the radio arm of CPB. The remaining recommendations in this group define basic roles which we feel the Corporation, through its Radio Division should play in public radio.
The third group of recommendations deals with other aspects of noncommercial radio. [text] These recommendations (Nos. 11-16) are designed to project an integrated system for public radio: the strengthening of NER as an active trade association to which virtually every station could belong; an independent national tape network (NRN), built from the current NER network and integrating independent programming sources such as BFA; an informational programming center in Washington, providing news and public affairs programs to NRN and to any other networks, live or tape, which would be established; regional networks with live interconnection, served by the new informational center and carefully evaluated for their effects on public radio’s audience and impact; funds for fellowship programs to encourage the recruitment and retention of new talent for the medium; and studies to help define and solve the stations’ own organizational problems.
Each of the recommendations in Section IV is tailored to respond to a problem which we encountered in the course of the Study. Building upon the past experience and current facilities of the medium, these recommendations try to present an effective way to deal with the problems. Each recommendation is discussed in Section IV; but these discussions are brief, and a fuller understanding for the basis of the recommendations must come from a reading of the body and Appendices of the Study’s report.
The staff of the Study feel that we should suggest some priorities for our recommendations:
1) First must come reorganization. We feel that the key to this is an effective Radio Division of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The organizational system which our recommendations suggest would, we feel, make much more effective the utilization of the new funds which hopefully will come to the medium in the next few years. We feel that this is an important point to consider, for the medium today is too fragmented and suffers from too many internal difficulties to get the maximum benefit from even a major infusion of new funds. The new Radio Division should be the catalyst for new efforts in noncommercial radio.
2) Program production should come next. The production center for informational programming would be of great value to the medium as a whole. It would be simply crucial to any major new efforts at live interconnection. Though a center could be designed for any level of performance from the limited efforts made by NER recently to an elaborate center feeding an all-news operation as well as syndicating its programs, it seemed most valuable to the Study to investigate the costs required to build a center capable of supplying useful programming to both NRN and live networks. Such a center would, according to the estimates we received, cost from $750,000 to $4,000,000 for the three-year trial period needed to evaluate its effects with any degree of accuracy. We feel that the lower estimate might be a satisfactory place to begin thinking about such a center, though more expensive options could be considered under special circumstances.
3) Only after these steps in organization and programming are taken do we feel that major experiments in live interconnection should be undertaken. Current financial expectations are such that we feel that nation-wide live interconnection would be too expensive to undertake, unless a massive reduction in interconnection rates could be negotiated. We therefore worked on this premise, and we constructed a trial model for live interconnection based upon two regional networks, one in the East and the other around the Great Lakes. Under current Class A tariffs as cited by the Telephone Company, these networks could be operated eight hours a day, seven days a week and tied to a Washington production center by a reversible line for a total cost of $130,000 a year. Less than $400,000 would thus operate this experimental model for live interconnection for the suggested trial period of three years. We feel that this proposal works validly within the economic and psychological framework which we found for the medium. We encountered so great an interest in networking that we devoted and entire section (Appendix B) to our consideration of this problem. Our model proposal is an attempt to reconcile two requirements for a system of new live interconnection: it should be extensive enough to introduce into public radio a new element significant to the whole medium, yet flexible enough to preserve some autonomy for member stations during the period while the network is being evaluated.
Two other points of general importance should also be mentioned at this time:
1) Research, promotion, and the assistance of consultants where needed, should be considered integral parts of future thinking about noncommercial radio on all levels. Station managers are in general agreement that all would be extremely useful in public radio, as they have been in commercial radio. But these have proved too expensive for most local stations. The central organizations in the medium should provide leadership in developing these services for the medium as a whole. They should also help the individual stations get the benefit of these services.
2) The maximum efficiency of public radio can not be realized without a more efficient use of its space in the FM spectrum. Only reallocation of this spectrum space could in sure maximizing the service the medium can render to its two beneficiaries: the general audience and the broadcasting institutions and their students.
Hopefully, the recommendations of the Public Radio Study would provide a better integrated and more effective service in noncommercial radio. They do not pretend to define the only way this could be done; they only offer one plan which we feel would work. At a time when there is more activity in the field than at any time in years, we do feel that some action should be taken to insure the continuation of the momentum in the medium. Otherwise, noncommercial radio will remain in the shadows of neglect which have kept it “the hidden medium.”
Noncommercial radio is weak. But it does have a nucleus of talent in production and management which could provide the leadership in making it a more effective service. It deserves support. Without support, it will not be able to recruit the new talent it needs to grow stronger. We of the Public Radio Study feel that the distribution of new funds to a more efficiently organized medium would quickly demonstrate whether or not public radio could become an important voice in American life.
Richard D. Estell of WKAR in East Landing [sic], Michigan, sent a copy of his very interesting study of noncommercial station managers to NER in Washington. In his dedication, he called educational radio “The Emerging Medium.” The next few years will likely determine whether Estell is a prophet or an incurable optimist. We hope that the Public Radio Study will at least define some of the choices to be faced in that determination.
Noncommercial radio has survived some difficult times. It is now perhaps the moment to decide whether or not that will remain its principal achievement. What is done in the next few years may yet determine what the medium will finally be able to accomplish. The vital areas of attention are funding and organization.
Only a willingness of interested parties to give more money can solve the financial problems. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 has already transformed the possibilities for funding noncommercial radio. Even so, any satisfactory and dependable funding of the medium will be possible only after two things happen: an adequate system of long-range financing for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting must be established and the Corporation must commit a substantial share of its efforts to the aural medium. Nonetheless, it would be of great value if some institution like the Ford Foundation committed itself to a sustained effort of several years on behalf of educational radio. A proof of long-range efforts being undertaken, and the development of regular sources of funds outside licensee budgets, would do much for the confidence of noncommercial station managers. Such a commitment by a non-governmental institution would take on an even greater importance if a plan for permanent funding of the CPB is not forthcoming in the near future.
Given this situation with regard to funding, our recommendations deal primarily with problems of organization of the medium in terms of its spectrum, its component institutions and its operations. Some of these recommendations may seem obvious, some may seem overly general, and a few may prove controversial. They focus on the points which the staff of the Public Radio Study found most needful of attention and most interesting to those involved in public radio.
These recommendations offer at least one approach to tackling the problems of noncommercial radio. Hopefully, the approach is an integrated one which ties together into a coherent whole its suggestions. Whether the actions finally taken are those recommended in this study or not, we hope that these recommendations indicate those areas in which action should be taken. Whatever its form, some action is needed soon if the current optimism and enthusiasm are not to be dissipated.
1. THE SPECTRUM SPACE RESERVED FOR NONCOMMERCIAL EDUCATIONAL FM RADIO SHOULD BE REALLOCATED IN ORDER TO EXPAND AND MAKE MORE EFFECTIVE THE SERVICE.
This recommendation is designed to come to grips with several problems the Public Radio Study frequently encountered in its research. It is assumed that it can be considered under the terms of a current look into a change of rules in educational radio going on under an FCC Notice of Inquiry (Docket No. 14185).
Due to the rapid development of FM broadcasting during the past few years, there are few major markets with channels available, either commercial or noncommercial. At the same time, there has been an explosive development in new educational institutions in metropolitan areas. One of the most striking developments in education in the 1960’s has been the rapid proliferation of city and community colleges, special and vocational schools, and new urban campuses for established public institutions.
A particular hardship is thus being worked on this important new group of educational institutions, which have grown up too late to obtain educational radio broadcasting channels. This is especially unfortunate since these institutions seem destined to play such an important role in defining education’s place in the urban environment of the next decades. This situation also appears to conflict with the goal of encouraging new educational radio stations, as expressed in such FCC efforts as the creation of the ten-watt classification.
Another difficulty resulting from the current saturation of urban spectrum space is that the opportunity to develop new services of high enough power to provide a strong signal over the whole of a metropolitan area has virtually disappeared. This has affected not only lower powered stations which might want to expand their service, but also those who would like to go on the air with new services of this nature. In some of the markets where this was true, there were few signals of high enough power to cover the area but lower powered stations were placed along the spectrum in such a way as to block development of new high-powered stations on any channel.
A third problem which we occasionally encountered was that of interference between the educational FM band and Channel 6 broadcasting in the VHF television spectrum. This has caused difficulty to some educational stations, especially those near the lower end of their band.
In the course of the Study, it became evident that all these problems were related to the somewhat haphazard pattern of educational radio signal proliferation. Though the band is saturated in many markets, this saturation does not represent the most efficient possible use of the spectrum. There is a general feeling in public radio that a more systematic method of licensing educational radio stations in the past might have prevented this situation. Nonetheless, the situation now exists, and the question is whether some general reallocation plan could be devised which could significantly reduce the current problems without working too great a hardship on existing stations.
The Public Radio Study commissioned Kear & Kennedy, consulting engineers in Washington, D.C., to study this question and, if feasible, prepare such a reallocation plan. Exhibit II, presented at the end of this report, is a copy of the plan which Kear & Kennedy worked out.
Our objectives were to attack the problems resulting from saturated spectrum space which were discussed above: lack of space for stations on new campuses, lack of high powered general services for metropolitan areas, and interference with Channel 6. We asked Kear & Kennedy to insure that no station currently in operation be taken off the air, that the minimum possible hardship be worked on existing stations. Kear & Kennedy also attempted wherever possible to work within the context of current FCC standards and techniques.
The plan devised by Kear & Kennedy features two major innovations:
1) A reordering of the educational FM spectrum to cluster the low powered stations at the lower end of the reserved band, thus freeing the upper end of the spectrum for high-power operations. The low-power stations would be assigned on a “demand” basis, with no Table of Assignments, while the high-power stations would be placed according to a Table of Assignments like that in commercial radio. The placement of the low-power stations at the lower end of the band would also have the additional effect of minimizing interference from Channel 6.
2) The creation of a new classification of stations, Class E, limited to stations operating with an ERP of from 100 watts to 1 kw, with a maximum antenna height of 300 ft. This new class of stations would observe the rules for the higher powered Class B and C stations, but they would be allowed to operate within the portion of the spectrum reserved for lower-power Class D stations.
This plan, it seems to us, offers a great deal of flexibility in solving the problems which occur in saturated markets. Obviously, in some cases attempts to solve one of the problems created by the current allocation system will limit attempts to solve others. Nonetheless, we of the Public Radio Study endorse this approach, and we think it could prove extremely valuable as a basis for an effort by the FCC to rationalize the use of the limited spectrum space reserved for educational radio.
It should be understood that the options we discuss are just that. Under current regulations about separation and interference, this plan will not solve all problems at once. For example, a decision to maximize the number of Class D and E stations in Chicago would have meant extending the space set aside for these stations at the bottom of the band; this in turn would have reduced the possibilities for new Class B service in the area. Kear & Kennedy applied the plan to these markets in order to see its effect in opening up possibilities for new high powered stations; it worked, but it is only one of several possible directions in which the plan allows reallocation in a market to move.
It is worth noting that Kear & Kennedy were careful to pattern their proposal “To as great an extent as possible … after existing FCC rules, and … assumptions regarding propagation, interference, etc. … similar to those employed by the FCC in the past.” They further comment that “there are a number of technical criteria which are subject to question and which might have been challenged in this study.” They worked within such rules of the FCC as those on db ratios for co-channel interference and uv/m values for signals. We of the Study are no engineers, and we can only try to piece together the considerable argument about such regulations that we encountered in the course of the Study. We have heard enough, however, to make us feel that it would be worthwhile for the FCC to study the effect of these regulations on the utilization of the educational spectrum. The problems and potential of educational radio are such that a special relaxation of these regulations within the educational band might yield social and educational benefits which would outweigh the engineering problems they might cause. We feel that this would prove particularly useful under the terms of the plan proposed here: a relaxation of these regulations might allow a great expansion in the number of Class E stations which could broadcast, without eliminating the chances for new services of a higher power. Though not within the purview of this study, the effect of these regulations on noncommercial radio should be considered by the FCC in devising a plan which would serve as the basis for flexible and creative growth in educational radio in the 1970’s and beyond.
One other point: we feel that any consideration of the future of noncommercial radio should consider the potentials of subchannel broadcasting. This is being discussed in the medium, and the FCC has already had some presentations on the subject. Any decisions about how to restructure the allocation of the educational spectrum should take into account the fact that some of the service problems of today conceivably could be solved by the use of sub-channel broadcasting.
For example in Chicago, the School Board station WBEZ might provide all its in-school services via subchannels and convert its primary carrier into a general metropolitan service, thus in effect creating a new area-wide service without requiring the use of additional spectrum space. If this technique were used, it would obviously create an alternative solution for finding new high powered services in Chicago; it might then indicate that a reallocation plan in that city be directed toward maximizing the service of lower powered stations.
A reallocation plan for any market should strike a balance between the demand for new broadcasting channels for educational institutions, and the desirability of providing a wide range of service to the general audience. To be most efficient, any reallocation plan must take into account the service potential of current broadcasting operations, including the potential suggested by the advance of subchannel technology.
Each market area obviously presents different needs and problems. A reallocation plan should be carefully tailored to the situation in each market. In this connection, computer studies of communities with saturated spectrum space would be invaluable in determining the full range of options offered by this or any other reallocation plan. It should be emphasized that the Kear & Kennedy plan is not intended to represent the single best method for dealing with any market area. It merely presents a general approach and illustrates some of its possibilities. Computer analysis of individual cases would be useful in assessing the merits of various options and forming the most efficient specific proposals.
We realize that there is one major difficulty with this plan. Reallocation will require a changing of channels for many stations. Though we asked Kear & Kennedy to keep the movement to a minimum, it was obvious that some changing of frequency would be required in any reallocation. This will work a hardship on those stations required to move. Appendix A in our Exhibit II discusses the costs; they can be considerable for a station of high power. We can only say that we feel that reallocation is important enough to move forward, even with the costs involved. Since the changes in any but the largest markets would likely not be required for a time, the costs of changing frequency could be spread over a period of time. It is also hoped that outside funds, from the Federal Government or the CPB, might be found to help defray these costs.
This recommendation is one which we of the Public Radio Study feel is very important. We have tried to present one plan which might be used for reallocation. Though we feel it offers a great many points of general merit, it may prove less effective than some other plan. We do feel, however, that the real potential of noncommercial radio to serve the public can only be fulfilled within the framework of a more coherent and efficient use of the limited space reserved for that medium.
2. SUPPORT SHOULD BE GIVEN TO LEGISLATION OR REGULATION WHICH WOULD STRENGTHEN OR EXPAND THE SERVICES OF FM RADIO IN GENERAL AND NONCOMMERCIAL EDUCATIONAL FM IN PARTICULAR.
Since noncommercial radio is so dominantly an FM medium, sheer logic dictates that it support efforts which would increase the audience, service or technical capabilities of FM radio.
One such effort is that to require all radio receivers to be capable of receiving FM signals. Legislation was introduced to both houses early in its first session of the 91st Congress. These “all-channel” radio bills (5. 402, introduced by Senator Frank Moss [D. Utah], and H.R. 2113, introduced by Representative Alvin O’Konski [R. Wisconsin]) could only help noncommercial radio by expanding its potential audience and by leading to additional promotion and development of FM by commercial broadcasters. Current trends in FM set sales indicate that significant expansion is already taking place. However, simple logic dictates that noncommercial radio should support any movement which would accelerate the process. “All-channel” radio legislation obviously would speed the growth of the FM audience, especially as it increased the number of automobiles equipped to receive both AM and FM signals.
Efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of utilizing the educational FM band should also be encouraged and supported. The Public Radio Study has already recommended that a reallocation of the educational spectrum would provide a better service in metropolitan areas to both educators and the general audience. Any proposals which would improve the potential of noncommercial radio in directions such as interconnection, multiplexing, and better coverage should be supported. The FCC has already heard several proposals for improvements in the medium in response to its Notice of Inquiry into changing the rules for FM noncommercial radio. Since both FM broadcasting and education are such growth fields at this time, the opportunity to rationalize and make more serviceable a system which seems, like Topsy, to have “just growed” should not be missed. It may not come soon again. The National Association of Educational Broadcasters has already presented its comments to the FCC on this Notice (“Comments of the NAEB,” FCC Docket No. 14185 [13 March 1967]); that organization and others concerned with public radio should make every effort to encourage any rule changes likely to produce a really coherent system of noncommercial radio guaranteeing both contemporary service and room to develop its service in the next decade.
3. ACTIVE SUPPORT SHOULD BE RENDERED TO ANY EFFORTS TO DEVELOP FM RADIO’S THREE GREAT ADVANTAGES OVER AM: ITS FIDELITY OF SOUND, ITS CAPACITY FOR BROADCASTING WITH SUBCHANNELS, AND ITS COMPATABILITY WITH THE USE OF SATELLITE RELAYS AND COMMUNITY ANTENNA RECEIVING SYSTEMS FOR TELEVISION.
Experiments and plans which would develop any of these advantages peculiar to FM should be supported, especially where they might include educational radio.
Efforts at the imaginative use of high-fidelity and stereo broadcasting of events not now so covered should be encouraged. Public radio should pioneer in the use of experimental sound techniques in covering news, sports, and public affairs.
Of special concern would be plans for the development of broadcasting for educational and public purposes which employs subchannels. Multiplexing, only now beginning to play a vital role in noncommercial radio, could prove an invaluable tool in providing special services to professional groups, to special audiences such as the handicapped, and to instructional centers. No area is more deserving of the attention of those interested in public radio in the immediate future than the area of using subchannels to expand the service potential of educational radio. No area seems to offer more opportunity for creative and expansive employment of the medium.
The inclusion of noncommercial radio in any domestic satellite system should be assured. The necessary engineering studies to describe how this might best be done should be undertaken. To assure the maximum cooperation between noncommercial radio and television broadcasters, the most satisfactory approach would seem to be that of including radio signals as subchannels on any main channels reserved for educational TV. The Public Radio Study commissioned a brief look at this problem by Mr. David W. Lipke of the Communications Satellite Corporation. His comments appear as Exhibit I, p. 235. This cursory overview of the problem does indicate the feasibility of this approach.
The use of FM radio by CATV systems should be investigated. A place for educational stations should be assured in any system where radio is included, since CATV may prove yet another tool for increasing the FM audience. Other aspects of involvement with CATV which should be investigated by educational radio are those of potential participation in required local production by the CATV systems, of controlled audience measurements which systems might afford, and of potential uses of CATV systems to receive and distribute subchannel services.
4. THERE SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED WITHIN THE CPB A RADIO DIVISION, RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING CONTINUITY AND FOCUS TO THE EFFORTS OF THE CORPORATION IN THE AREA OF NONCOMMERCIAL RADIO. AN EXECUTIVE OF HIGH RANK WITHIN THE CORPORATION SHOULD HEAD THE DIVISION AND BE GIVEN AUTHORITY TO DEVELOP IT AND ASSURE ITS EFFECTIVENESS.
Despite the obvious and active interest of the CPB staff in treating radio fairly, it seems almost certain that its higher costs and greater visibility assure that television will monopolize the time of anyone trying to serve both media on a continuing basis. The needs of public radio are such that a permanent organization with a regular staff is required to guarantee to the radio constituency of the Corporation the continuous and active service it needs. Without such an organization, the CPB seems unlikely to be able to fulfill its responsibilities to educational radio. The Division must, in effect, serve as a lobby for radio within the Corporation. The Division would be most effectively placed in Washington, where it could maintain the most effective liaison with other agencies concerned with public radio.
The Study can not make too strong its support for a separate and permanent Radio Division. The past experience of direct competition between radio and television leads us to feel that radio should not hesitate to push for institutional guarantees, organizational and operational, that it will receive full measure of time and money from any supporting institution. Despite some fears expressed about the possibilities of fragmenting the organizational structure of CPB by introducing a special division for radio, we feel that such a formal instrument is necessary if public radio is to construct the strong and effective organizational system which it needs to develop to the fullest its potential. Perhaps a parallel TV Division would solve this organizational problem. Whether or not the Radio Division is paralleled by a similar organization for television, its own capacity to operate within the area of its unique interests must be the basis for the continuing and responsive leadership which the Corporation should provide to educational radio.
The head of the Division should be an executive of high enough rank to insure that the Division is considered in any major decision about the role and future of the CPB. Only a senior executive will have the authority to insure that radio plays a full role in the continuing decisions of the Corporation about such issues as funding and the allocation of resources, research and development, and organizational structuring.
The Radio Division must not be allowed to slip into the situation of many of the stations, where the personality and skill of its chief executive determines the success of the operation. Institutional guarantees should be written into the creation and development of the Radio Division, so its place in the organization of the CPB will be secure and radio as a medium will continue to receive a full measure of service.
This recommendation is crucial to the Study’s concept of the role which the CPB should play in noncommercial radio. Recommendations 5 through 10 are based upon this recommendation. They are intended to make clear some crucial areas of action for the Division. We feel that the exact design of the Division must be left to the Corporation and to those who will operate it. The next group of recommendations represents our feelings about the most critical areas in which the Division should operate.
5. THE RADIO DIVISION SHOULD SERVE AS THE PRIMARY CONTACT BETWEEN AMERICAN NONCOMMERCIAL RADIO BROADCASTING AND NATIONAL BROADCASTERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES.
This would mean that at last there was a coordinate body in U.S. broadcasting with which these foreign broadcasters could deal. It would facilitate program acquisition and cooperation on international production. As well, the Radio Division of CPB could then help advise foreign broadcasters on how best to “Americanize” their programming to insure it the widest distribution and greatest utility to stations here. The Division could in turn pass on to interested American stations information on how best to program for foreign distribution.
6. THE RADIO DIVISION SHOULD SERVE AS THE CPB’s LIAISON WITH THE RADIO MEDIUM.
The Division should be the chief contact of CPB with other radio organizations, commercial and noncommercial, and with any new institutions which may be established in noncommercial radio. It should represent the Corporation at normal meetings and conventions on radio.
The Radio Division should become the Corporation’s normal agency for disbursing funds to radio, and it should be able to keep the top executives of CPB informed as to the effectiveness of those disbursements.
The Division should be as imaginative as possible in determining the role it should play in aiding the public radio medium. It should encourage cooperation, not only between itself and other agencies in educational radio, but also among those other agencies with which it will deal.
An example of the services which the Division could see set up is an Equipment Exchange. Many stations have severe problems with old equipment, much of which has been kept operational only through the efforts of talented engineers at the stations. To many such stations, good used equipment from commercial broadcasters would provide a real upgrading of their technical operations. A good number of stations have received such equipment at some time or another, but such gifts are unpredictable. A regular pool of such good second-hand gear would prove very valuable to the medium as a whole.
It is true that public radio should, wherever possible, have the highest possible quality of equipment. However, neither station budgets nor Title I funds available in the near future seem likely to solve the many equipment problems which the Study encountered in its visits to the field. In many cases, good equipment which might be discarded by a commercial station would improve the technical quality of a noncommercial station. However, at present there is often no way for the educational station to know when equipment is available, nor for the commercial operator to know who might need his gear.
Here the Corporation could provide a vital service. It could serve as the recipient of donations of such equipment, giving opportunities for tax relief and advantageous promotion to the commercial station. Information about the availability of such equipment could be circulated to the educational stations, either by the Division directly or through NER. So long as it remained discriminating in what it accepted and avoided becoming a tax-relief dumping ground for worn-out gear from commercial stations, CPB could in this way provide a useful service to its radio constituency at little cost.
In such projects as an Equipment Exchange, the Division should consider carefully its own role. In pursuing this idea, so enthusiastically endorsed by many of the poorer stations (and some of the richer ones) which the Study interviewed, it would be vital to evaluate the potential division of labor and authority between CPB and other agencies. It would seem for reasons of promotion and centralization that CPB would be the best recipient of the gifts of equipment; but is the Corporation or NER better suited to the task of informing the stations about available equipment? Who should make the engineering decisions about whether a potential gift was worth taking? Who would handle storage, and where?
In projects such as this, the Division should analyze not only the needs of the medium but also the organizational options available to meet those needs. New money, new effort, and new institutions are going to appear in educational radio. It will remain a critical job of the Corporation, through the Radio Division as its active arm, to minimize duplication and inefficiency of effort, without stifling creative new ventures.
7. THE RADIO DIVISION SHOULD ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS WITH LEGAL, ENGINEERING AND RESEARCH CONSULTANTS WHO WOULD PROVIDE IT WITH REGULAR INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE.
These consultants should be utilized for both regular and special studies to keep the Division abreast of the current situation in broadcasting. The Division should have funds available to support special studies in fields related not only to programming but also to research and development.
The Division should be able to use its own consultants in radio. Here again it must avoid being merely an arm of a body primarily concerned with TV operations, whose consultants might not be familiar with the problems of radio.
8. THE RADIO DIVISION SHOULD ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS WITH A SERVICE (OR SERVICES) WHICH WOULD PROVIDE IT WITH REGULAR DATA ON THE AUDIENCES OF NONCOMMERCIAL RADIO STATIONS.
The area of audience research is one in which the Division should be active. Efforts should be made to increase the understanding of individual station audiences as well as of the factors which define them. Continuing audience research in noncommercial radio will be of great importance in evaluating the new approaches to programming and promotion which, hopefully, will be made in the next few years.
The Division should encourage individual stations to learn as much about their audience as possible. It should investigate ways in which standard university resources might be used to develop good audience data and disseminate the results. Uncertain ties about the meaning of audience research, fears of its high cost, and unfamiliarity with its techniques have deterred many stations from producing accurate information about whom they really reach or what they mean to that audience. Information about the public radio audience likely will prove of increasing importance to CPB as it tries to evaluate the effectiveness of various efforts in educational radio. Research to produce such information should be encouraged, and no better way exists than for the Corporation to take an active interest in this area and develop its own resources and supplies of such information.
9. THE RADIO DIVISION SHOULD ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS WITH AGENCIES WHICH WOULD PROVIDE HELP IN THE DEVELOPMENT AND UTILIZATION OF PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES NOT ONLY BY THE CORPORATION BUT ALSO BY INDIVIDUAL STATIONS OR COMBINATIONS OF THEM.
Promotion remains a universal concern of noncommercial radio. The Division should work on promoting educational radio in general, as well as on helping individual stations or groups of stations to produce effective promotional campaigns. Imagination and the exchange of information would go far in this field to counter-balance a paucity of funds which may continue.
Promotional considerations should be weighed in CPB’s decision to support and develop programming resources. Promotion is necessary to insure continued development and better results from new programming efforts.
Of particular interest should be promotion used in fund raising. Again CPB should think not only of its general role in the medium as a whole but also of ways in which it might help individual stations or groups of stations.
10. THERE SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED AN ADVISORY BOARD OF EXPERIENCED NONCOMMERCIAL RADIO BROADCASTERS WHICH WOULD WORK WITH THE RADIO DIVISION AND PROVIDE A SPECIAL CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN IT AND ACTIVE BROADCASTERS.
More than geography should be considered in selecting the prominent educational broadcasters who compose this Board. It should represent not only regions but also problems in public radio. At least one member should be involved in each of these special areas of noncommercial radio: broadcasting to areas with a low density of population; airing programs for or by special or minority audiences; doing significant work in multiplexing; producing and broadcasting instructional programming; teaching students of broadcasting; and dealing with the problems of a combined radio-TV operation. Other special problem areas might be represented on the Board as well, for its purpose should be to provide an important link between the Corporation’s Radio Division and the active broadcasters in the field.
An understanding of the problems and potentials of public radio is imperative to the Division; and assurance that the Division is advised of current developments in these areas is vital if the actual broadcasters are to feel confident that it is doing its job. The Advisory Board would be an important instrument in assuring the active flow of information which both the Division and individual broadcasters will need.
11. NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL RADIO SHOULD BECOME AS EFFECTIVE AND BROAD-BASED A TRADE ASSOCIATION AS POSSIBLE. A CLOSE AND COORDINATED RELATIONSHIP SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED AND MAINTAINED BETWEEN NER AND THE RADIO DIVISION OF CPB.
Just as the Division should act as a lobby for radio within CPB, so should NER be a lobby for individual stations to the Corporation, to Congress, and to other organizations. CPB should help NER develop the facilities for this role, but it should in no way exercise any control over it.
To insure the broadest possible participation in its activities, membership in NER should be made as widely available as possible. Membership should be made more accessible by eliminating the current charges for the program service as a condition of membership. Foundation and Corporation help should be sought where necessary to aid in developing for NER the vigorous role of serving as the major link between the individual educational station and other components of the medium. NER should also provide the organizational framework for the exchange among stations of information and ideas which is so important to keeping the medium dynamic and active.
12. TO FACILITATE THE MOST EFFECTIVE OPERATION OF NER AS AN ACTIVE TRADE ASSOCIATION, ITS TAPE NETWORK SHOULD BE SEPARATED FROM IT AND MADE THE BASE FOR AN INDEPENDENT NONCOMMERCIAL RADIO NETWORK.
This Noncommercial Radio Network (NRN) should ideally be rationalized by combining National Educational Radio Network (NERN) and other programming sources such as the Broadcasting Foundation of America. The goal should be a service flexible and inexpensive enough to provide some service to small stations without limiting its capacity to provide major programming efforts to larger outlets. Different classes of subscription and membership to NRN should be established to allow differing services at differing costs to affiliating stations of various sizes and budgets.
13. A NEWS AND INFORMATIONAL PROGRAMMING PRODUCTION CENTER SHOULD BE SET UP IN WASHINGTON TO PROVIDE GOOD PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROGRAMMING TO NRN AND TO OTHER NETWORKS WHICH MIGHT DEVELOP IN EDUCATIONAL RADIO.
Its activities should be coordinated with the national tape network (NRN) and integrated into any live interconnections which are established. The Center should establish cooperation with free-lance producers, with individual stations, and with foreign broadcasters to insure the broadest and most up-to-date programming possible. Its precise shape should be tailored to the systems of distribution with which it will have to work. Foundation support should be sought for the Center, which should also be considered by CPB as a major new source of program production.
It is imperative, however, that the Center remain independent and free from any political pressure or overtones. It should at all times maintain a fair and open attitude toward the issues of the day. There is no area likely to be more controversial than that of a news center funded even partially by public funds. It must remain professional and apolitical at all times.
14. EXPERIMENTS IN REGIONAL LIVE INTERCONNECTION SHOULD BE SUPPORTED, WITH AN EYE TO LIVE NATIONAL INTERCONNECTION IF THE REGIONAL NETWORKS PROVE EFFECTIVE IN DEVELOPING NEW AUDIENCES AND A WIDER IMPACT FOR THE MEDIUM.
These networks should be interconnected with the Center. Foundation help should be sought in financing this expensive effort at laying out a new configuration for public radio.
The productions of regional networks should be made available to other networks and to NRN. NRN should make sure that stations excluded from experiments in live interconnection, perhaps for no other reason than an accident of geography, would still have access to the best programs of those networks receiving special support.
To support regional networks ahead of a national hook-up reflects the Study’s evaluation of the costs and problems involved in embarking on new paths of live interconnection. If a sudden and extraordinary reduction in charges for interconnection were to be negotiated, or if an enormous and unforeseen amount of money were to be made available for interconnection, an immediate national integration of regional networks might be undertaken.
However, we of the Study feel that the current situation, psychological and economic, dictates beginning with regional networks. We agree with the widespread feeling that good production facilities are needed to make the most of interconnection. Trying to work within the current framework of possibilities as we saw them, we concluded that a system of regional networks tied in with a major new production center offered the single combination most likely not only to develop new facilities for the medium as a whole but also to permit study of the effects of such interconnection on a variety of local stations. A section (Appendix B) of the report is devoted to discussing our investigation into networking, and this recommendation is a product of that investigation.
15. FELLOWSHIPS AND APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED TO SUPPORT THE TRAINING AND RECRUITMENT OF NEW MANAGEMENT AND TALENT FOR NONCOMMERCIAL RADIO.
No matter what form these programs take, they should be designed to develop interest not only in noncommercial radio but also in educational broadcasting in general. It may prove, in fact, that one of the major sources of talent for educational radio will be those who see it as a way-station and training ground for public television. Such recruits should not be turned away; their creative efforts can only help radio, and some of them will surely be persuaded by its particular needs and abilities to stay in the aural medium.
A particular area of concentration should be in that of fellowships which could be used to help institute and develop effective public affairs activity at local stations. Such fellowships would not only help with talent recruitment and training for the medium as a whole, but also would help local stations play a more significant role in their communities.
16. FURTHER STUDIES SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN INTO THE PROBLEMS OF ORGANIZATION OF INDIVIDUAL STATIONS, AND INTO THEIR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR PARENT ORGANIZATIONS.
Some management information and guidelines, especially with the sanction and backing of the CPB, would prove very useful in helping stations evaluate and make more effective their working relationships with their parent institutions. In addition, information about patterns of organization in other stations would probably help many station managers who know very little about the organizational experience of their colleagues.
These then are our recommendations. They represent the efforts of the Public Radio Study to rationalize the system as it exists now and to suggest new elements where we saw the need. The desires of the station managers whom we interviewed have been taken into consideration; so have the aspirations of a wide range of others concerned with the medium. The final form of a noncommercial radio system must take into account the needs of all components of that system. It must represent the most effective use possible of the resources of the medium, and it must understand and try to correct its weaknesses. Public radio must assess realistically and honestly its potential and its limitations, and it must set for itself goals which it can reach.
Our recommendations have not attempted to provide a detailed blueprint of a new structure for noncommercial radio. That must be left to those who will provide leadership to the medium in the next few years. We have only tried to sketch the outlines of responses to the problems and concerns which we found in public radio. We hope that our suggestions can prove of some help to those who will be the real architects of any new design to make “the hidden medium” a more visible part of our lives.
Copyright 1969 American University