By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor March 23, 1946 p. 22
THE RADIO TRADE IS SEETHING with a battle royal over its future but you would never know it by reading your daily press. The likely reason is those same advertisers who spend $397 million a year for radio time, are responsible for the economic life-line of the daily press. The crux of the feud is a 139 page report by the Federal Communications Committee against radio advertisers in which it is charged that demands of powerful advertisers whose dough supports the stations financially, are conflicting with the rights of the whole people as guaranteed by federal law.
A survey made by FCC brought to light such abuses of air time as a Texas station making 2,215 commercial announcements in the course of 133 hours of broadcasting. And six spot announcements in a five and a half minute period were made over an Ohio station. To further show the dastardly effect advertising has on radio, the report says "for every three writers employed, there were four advertising salesmen employed. For every dollar paid the average writer, the average salesman was paid $2.39." Hitting hard at the 'soap operas' which occupy most of the day time listening periods, (55 out of 59½ hours) FCC is out to see that radio time is better distributed.
. . .
THE SUSTAINING PROGRAM which is time given by radio for such programs as New World A-Coming, American Negro Players, etc., has never been looked on with too much favor by the industry, but FCC says the primary function of radio is to serve the best interests of the public and that interest is not being best served by advertisers who gobble up the greater portion of time by trying to coerce the public into buying products.
This column along with countless other people agree with FCC in its severe criticism of commercial radio. Some of the utterly stupid plugs you have to endure in order to hear a program are an insult to your intelligence. For instance, some of the cigarette merchandising copy sounds as though it was written for people who never saw or heard of a cigarette. One popular brand known to irritate the throat, would have you believe that certain singers in the concert and opera field find this cigarette soothing. Some of the names used are folks who never smoke any kind of cigarettes. And of course you could just blow your top completely if you happen to be near enough to the radio to turn the dial when Pepsi-Cola--Super-Suds--Rinso--Life Buoy Soap--Chiquita-Banana, jingles and Shakespearean-like orations take over the air waves.
Advertisers would have you believe that these spot announcements do not interfere with the best listening quality of programs. But Variety, the theatrical paper, said on May 2, 1945, that check-charts had been made over a two-month period of a Colgate program (this company is one of the worst offenders) and show that "the drama picks up rating shortly after going on the air, and that every time a commercial is spieled, the rating sags."
. . .
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE, Duane Jones, one of New York's five largest advertising agencies has this to say: "The best radio program is the one that sells the most goods." And "Arbitrary curtailment of commercials would seriously impair the audience value of these shows." It is, Mr. (big business) Jones' contention that "when we increase the number and length of commercials of the air to test our programs, invariably their Crossley ratings go up."
Regardless of what Mr. Jones or anybody else has to say, the fact still remains that there are few commercial shows on the air which present their plugs in a tasteful unobtrusive manner and which devote the bulk of their air time to entertainment. And while we are on the subject of the advertisers' control of the airwaves, we ought to ever keep in mind those commentators who size up the news. Out of the many on the air, it can safely be said that there are not more than three or four who do not slant the news in the interest of big business which everybody agreess [sic] is out of step with the cause of The People.
We can never forget the concentrated efforts of the un-American forces which finally succeeded in barring William S. Gailmor from the networks. Electronics Corporation, who sponsored Gailmor, was one of the few progressive advertisers on the air and Galimor [sic], a fighting progressive, gave to the public a true unbiased picture of home and world affairs as they affect us. He called a spade a spade.
. . .
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS are challenging FCC's charges saying that FCC "reveals a lack of faith in the American system of free radio" and overlooks "completely freedom of speech in radio broadcasting." To this we say, brother what a laugh. Can you picture this kind of free speech these money greedy folks are talking about? Don't forget it was Gailmor's free speech which got him kicked off the air by the air-wave controllers.
Arch Oboler, radio playwright who won the 1946 trophy for outstanding works as a radio writer says: "Humbug fills our free American air" and that broadcasting "has gotten money-hungry to a degree that is far larger than its sense of public responsibility." Continuing, Oboler says, "from early morning until the last spot announcement preceding the goodnight rendition of the 'Star Spangled Banner', an amazing assortment of evasions, half-truths and untruths activate the kilocycle." Oboler pointed out that "Some of us can't write honest radio under such conditions."
FCC is out to see that more air time is given labor, education, public forums and views of significant minorities. Toward this end, Charles R. Denny, jr, 33-year-old acting chairman of FCC, promises to examine closely license renewals and new applications for broadcasting licenses to see if they live up to their responsibility to the public. Hoorah! for the firm stand Federal Communication [sic] Committee is taking on an industry which is so vital to the public.