7 April 1971 / Broadway Plays, Resignation
16 April 1971 / Sam Patch

9 April 1971/Welcome To The Tech

image from psacot.typepad.com
appeared briefly in The Tech before editor Robert Fourer pulled the plug.]

As a general rule, one doesn't find a blanket review of a medium in a column of this type. That is usually left to Marshall McLuhan and others of his stature, and I am not going to set myself up as their equal.

I will say that I have been in educational and commercial radio for four years. I know what the medium can do; to put it another way, what it isn't doing. There is something wrong with radio. If I could put my finger on it, I'd be rich. I can't.

Instead, listen to your radio. What do you hear? Music. All music; more music; happy music; the latest music. If it's the right time of day, you can hear all news, or all talk. Radio bills itself as an entertainment medium, however. Is music the only form of entertainment you can think of? That's certainly not the case.

But talk to or write to a commercial radio station manager. He will tell you that his station is in a commercial strait-jacket; that if they dare to experiment even a little, their revenue will disappear along with their audience the fact that their formats must be similar, they say, or else they will have no audience. So no one experiments very much, and radio continues a 20-year trend into blahness.

It doesn't have to be that way, you know. Radio in this country is controlled by a federal agency known as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Right now, you may say, "But I already know that.”

What you may not know, unless you keep up on the news of this quickly changing business, is that the FCC has taken a new stance: radio and TV stations -must actually serve the communities to which they are licensed, and provide them with the broadcast services they want and need.

This is your chance to make yourself heard. There are two ways to do this.

First, when you hear radio programming you like, write not only to the station, but to the "Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C." The same should hold true if you hear a station who’s programming consistently makes you ill. The FCC sits up and pays attention to letters from the listeners.

And, if your complaint is specific enough, the FCC will send a copy of-your letter to the station (with your name masked) and demand that the station explain its action. This kind of inquiry from the licensing agency which controls the stations' ability to broadcast usually brings immediate attention, although not always action. But, if no action is forthcoming and the FCC receives enough complaints on the same topic, on occasion action is taken.

The other method to influence the station is to call it and request that you be included in their survey of community needs. The FCC requires that the station survey its "community of license" and determine the community's needs and desires in terms of programming. The station may tell you that they will not be taking one for a year or so. If that is the case, it is up to you to persist, and call them back at the proper time.

But do not let them fool you: the FCC states that they cannot farm this chore out; that they must perform it themselves. Interpretation of the rules is difficult; some say that only community leaders need be interviewed, others say community members must be included.

To be effective however, you must know what you want out of radio. Have you ever thought about it? If you don't, someone else will think about it for you - and what they come up with may sound a lot like WRKO.

(By the way, (see paid ad elsewhere in this issue) Sam Patch, The Greatest Story Ever Told, So Far is going to be 'on WTBS this Saturday evening at 9:30 pm. Just because I directed it is no reason to listen; listen because it just happens to be good. As a matter of fact, it's the funniest musical-tragedy I've directed in a long time.


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