The truth about radio; Edwin G. Burrows
When I am.
Through the BOP radio I w o n e w an inquiry. Tonight's guest e.g. Burroughs chairman of the National Association of educational broadcasters interviewing Mr. Barlow's as Richard K. Dall nationally syndicated radio TV columnist.
And you're the manager of station WUOM at the University of Michigan Oh you know that right is that AM and FM knowing if the university actually has two FM stations.
Dick one with a transmitter located near Ann Arbor and the second station operating more or less as a satellite in Grand Rapids on the other side of the state of Michigan so that between the two stations both have family. We actually range the entire southern half of the state of Michigan.
You don't have a TV facility here at the university no.
We have a production center which is fully equipped with cameras and video tape machines and so forth and so on producing programs mainly for the use of commercial stations. But as yet no transmitter on the air. What kind of programming do you do in this University Michigan station WUOM program was I suppose very much as a good many other educational noncommercial stations do throughout the country. It is chiefly directed at adults. We do some programming for in school primary and secondary school use but no more than about a half an hour a day. The majority of our programming some 11 to 12 hours a day on the air is directed at adults about 55 percent of it is usually classical music concert music with a heavy emphasis upon live concerts. Great deal of musical activity going on in our campus all the time so we emphasize that since that is something we can do and not many other stations in the area can. In addition to that considerable amount of emphasis on news and public affairs with panel discussions commentary by faculty and sports as well.
In other words except for the you know absence of commercials your station could sound to an average listener pretty much like a commercial station.
But I accept that we have no way we run no programs that would be parallel with the straight disk jockey program and our news is always a great deal longer and more detailed than the average commercial station. As a matter of fact it's interesting that most of the commercial television stations are now for a variety of reasons have a longer news programs than they commercial radio stations do. We've been doing this for a good many years. Where we put on for instance at noon and again between 5 and 6 a solid hour of news and information all programs with one half hour of that devoted completely to what we could describe as hot news. This is something that is not being done in commercial radio in our area at the moment though it is being done to a degree on commercial television.
Well in other words commercial or rather educational rodeo in this country as exemplified by your station has a good variety of sounds doesn't it to use a trite term. There are various kinds of noncommercial so-called educational stations in this country. I think in New York there's WRVA Arias and I have operated by the Riverside Church of WNYC in the municipal station in New York. All of which tend to operate. Do they not. Somewhat more like commercial radio stations operated in the days before television. In that they do a variety of programming.
That's true I think that each station has to analyze what its own resources are and obviously the R.V. are in New York has different kinds of resources available to it than we do in Ann Arbor Michigan. The same would be true of San Francisco or Chicago or wherever else on a university campus as large a campus as ours. We rely very heavily on the expertise of our faculty. And as I said previously just in the area of music we have one of the largest schools of music in the country with a tremendous number of performing groups this kind of thing is not going to be available let's say on somebody else's campus. In the state of Michigan for instance just to give you a few examples Michigan State University at at East Lansing our sister institution which operates both AM and FM was originally an agricultural college and still has very close contacts with the State Agricultural Department through its AM station in particular. It reaches a farm audience and so considerable amount of its morning program for instance is devoted to information for farmers now this is the kind of thing which we in Ann Arbor would not even attempt to do. Some of it cuz our resources are not the same. Michigan State is located in the state capital therefore it has access to the types of legislative programming and information which we don't have and we let them gladly handle that on our campus however we have one of the major medical schools in the country and one of the main as well as one of the major law schools in the country and neither one of which are located elsewhere in the state and therefore we do a considerable amount of programming in the area of medicine and law. But we also have in the state of Michigan and in many instances covering somewhat the same audiences. We have a number of Specifically school stations that program instructional programming to the schools in their area and in some instances such as the flint Board of Education. Stay on the air the program for adults in the community after school hours.
How many so-called educational studies noncommercial radio stations are there in the country.
I don't know what it is. As of today but it's somewhere between 330 and 350.
But the growth of noncommercial radio in the country has not paralleled the growth of commercial radio has it.
No it went through many rocky periods for a variety of reasons. In the very early days educational stations noncommercial stations started at about the same time as commercial stations did as the date was about the same for some of the educational stations as it was for the commercial stations. Then they hit hard times and it was mainly a financial problem in the beginning certainly. There was the academic conservatism. We still have it. But it was even more so at that time this was a plaything a toy run mainly by engineering departments and no feeling that this could actually be part of the educational process. Along came the advent of FM and no more AM frequencies. Just before the war available and educational institutions started looking at FM then the work came along and closed down. The development of FM for a while and then after the war television came along and it's been sort of one blow after another to the development of educational broadcasting in general so it hasn't been until really the past five to 10 years that there has been a sudden surge of growth and the ability to grow and I think a new.
Attitude on the part particularly of the academic administrator he sees it as part and parcel of the educational process. And let's face it he also sees it as a very fine public relations arm of any educational institution as it is of any business.
Oh and just as in the case of educational television the programming on educational radio is so limited as far as instructional material is concerned is it not. That home asks how and and how many of the stations do instructional programming.
Well I would say that the great majority of educational noncommercial radio stations do some instructional programming at a number of different levels.
About a third to almost one half of them devote a considerable amount of time to instructional programming. Now the majority of the instruction that's now being done is in the primary and secondary grade levels. However there is more and more being done on the high school and collegiate level. But I would say overall that probably all stations do some instructional direct instructional programming. And then there are various gray areas in between.
For instance many stations like ours will broadcast complete courses three lectures a week or something like this which have been recorded in a classroom or possibly even carried live. But there is no credit involved in this this is simply done for public information.
You can call this instruction or you can say unless there's a certificate or a degree.
At the end of the year you can't really call it instructional. So there are areas like that but almost all stations in the country are doing some instructional programming and some of them are almost completely instructional.
What I was leading up to it is whether or not you feel that the name educational is a misnomer in the case of non commercial radio as so many people seem to feel the TV is in the case of a noncommercial television it is a misnomer.
But we have been looking for many many years for a substitute and can't find it tonight on television. Yes I think that this is.
Perhaps a step in the right direction it may not be the end of the final answer it it sounds too much in a way I suppose as if it were a discrimination against any other kind of broadcasting in other words none of these words exactly say what we are. And even the phrase noncommercial describes in Malay the fact that we don't carry commercials and in no way are describes the kind of programming we do. And so there is no perfect term in the language that anyone has come up with yet to to describe the kind of broadcasting that we have to label educational at the moment.
Well the Federal Communications Commission seems who all these years to have been unable to arrive at a definition of what is public service.
Do you have you had as much trouble really trying to define what education really on television is.
I suppose so. I suppose so except it's very easy for us to say of course that anything that we do is public service. And that's one way of defining public service is to say what an educational broadcaster does is public service.
I said this of course is not completely true any of us can put on programs and. They may be as little contribution to public knowledge as anything a commercial broadcaster could do and we are frank to state that. But generally speaking we have interpreted the majority of what we do at public service programming. And the point I'd like to make we make it back to it in a moment that so much of the programming which is done on non commercial stations is duplicated and distributed to commercial stations for use and is used as a public service programming and so stated when they make their reports to the Federal Communications Commission says this is one way in which a commercial station satisfies its requirements for public service broadcasting my caring education.
Programs could you give me an example of.
You say that the educational programming produced by the noncommercial stations is carried in some instances by commercial stations and by a tremendous number of instances yes not that you know you vary from state to state and I can give you only some fairly specific figures for my own state but three of our state universities and Michigan distributed programs to commercial stations. University of Michigan Michigan State University and Wayne State University. I have regularly over the years distributed programs. Michigan state distributes about the same number that the University of Michigan does in any one year two commercial stations. Our list includes 100 commercial stations who will receive up to three hundred programs on tape a week. So you see the coverage has been and has and has been rather phenomenal.
We did the commercial stations buy this programming from the educational stations or in our instance they get it all free.
All we require is that they return the tapes to us after the program has been broadcast. In some instances small charges are made. We charge if we send a program out of state simply because we are a state institution in some other states charges has to be made. They're usually simply to defray the cost of mailing and not to bring any profit into the organization.
Do the commercial broadcasters ever reciprocated that is do you do we carry programs which they produce say every supplier and in some instances yes we have good relations with a number of network stations for instance in Detroit and major public affairs program is being broadcast from Washington or in the case of broadcast and United Nations for instance. We may often request and get permission to broadcast from them programs which are actually major network programs. When this doesn't happen I would say on a regular basis but from time to time it does.
Now Ed you're chairman of the board of the Nicene Association of educational broadcasters and you're here in Washington at this moment for a conference to discuss the means of financing educational broadcasting in this country and by coincidence the president has just submitted recommendations to Congress for this sort of thing and the bill has been introduced by Senator Magnus and to set up a corporation of public broadcasting I believe there they call it. Do you feel that there is. Are you optimistic about the chances of a corporation being established in the near future. And what do you think it may mean to education already.
Yes I'm very optimistic about the passage of a bill in this Congress whether it. It has passed in the form that has been submitted by Senator Magnussen as a Senate bill 11 60 or whether considerable changes are made in it as it passes through Congress. I still think that there will be a bill only one title of which refers to the to the public corporation. The rest of it involves In essence the renewal of the continuation of what was originally the EDV facilities act monies to be distributed by the Department of Health Education and Welfare.
But I think the most significant new item in it is the corporation which of course has over a fraction of the Carnegie Commission's recommendations in its report.
And what is of course even more interesting to those of us who have been in radio is the fact that for the first time the federal government in a piece of legislation has recognized the existence of educational radio and has in one way or another suggested its incorporation into the various items of legislation.
We're now the expect is there. Is there anything spelled out as to how much money educational radio would get out of this. And I've seen a figure of 10 million overall for the first and for the next year.
At the moment the bill states 10 and a half million dollars which has not been earmarked specifically for either radio or television. It's possible that this may change that Congress and the various committees of Congress in discussing this and may decide that a specific soms should be air marked at the moment they are not. In other words to put it bluntly if this bill were to pass it would be up for grabs. From either radio or television facilities.
But this may change with this money before facilities rather than programming the they facilities part of the bill would be almost entirely devoted to the installation of new stations radio or television. The improvement of existing stations under the corporation. There are many additional possibilities including monies for program production and money for interconnection between stations for the relaying of programs via Lyon via satellite or whatever.
In other words the immediate prospect would seem to be that federal aid might be forthcoming first for the improvement of stations and and for establishment of additional noncommercial radio stations and then subsequently there might be a. The stimulation of national programming and facilities for networking.
Well yes and if of course if the bill is passed as it now stands or approximately as it stands it would provide immediate funds for the facilities aspect of it. It would also set up the corporation with monies to start. The other aspect to how fast they would be able to work how quickly they would be able to become organized and no one knows. So it's not entirely accurate to say that it would come in one two three order but it would probably take more time let's say for the corporation to become organized and decide as to how it was going to spend its money and then then simply the available monies under the facilities title.
This gets a little technical admitted. It might be interesting to try to ascertain if we can here. What the source of national network programming for noncommercial stations might bathe and the Ford Foundation has proposed linking up the nation's television and radio stations via satellite and have suggested free channels for television and radio. Assuming that something like this comes to pass that perhaps it might be through Comsat even the possibility exists. It seems that one of these days the educational noncommercial radio stations in this country will have an opportunity to to be hooked up for network operation.
Is it likely that the source of the programming for that network would be any are the national education already all set up that operates under your any and he be or would it be an organization set up under this corporation that they are proposing to establish.
Now through Congress Well obviously I can't tell you for sure what it might be I can say that probably yes to all of your questions. I would certainly think a first step would be to utilize the present system which we have which is a tape distribution network like any TV and television to simply transfer this to some kind of live networking capability.
The Carnegie Commission has proposed the establishment of two productions satyrs including the existing National Educational Television.
It would seem obvious to me that a production center for educational radio programming would be highly advisable. Whenever and however such could be set up. But right now and for some time there has been the capability of distributing programmes in other words they are now being done but they are being done by by tape and. Different kinds of programs would obviously be distributed at the minute you had a live network. It would be a capability of doing much more timely programs we have to avoid. Now the type of program which is going to become dated within a week and it takes about a week to 10 days to get a program from its origination point to the using station via tape.
Some people already and are raising the bogey of possible government control of noncommercial radio and television the possibility that this corporation which they're talking about establishing as recommended by the Carnegie Commission could not be kept out the way from political influences and pressures. How much does this concern you I think. That is how much are you. Do you feel this is a threat.
Well I don't know that it is a particular threat I'm not too much concerned about it for several reasons one federal funds have been expended in one way or another over the years not to educational radio but to educational television. And no one has suffered to date from excessive governmental control or any control for that matter. The other aspect of it of course is that we will have to rely upon Congress to determine the way in which this corporation is set up and certainly they are going to be as much concerned about it as our representatives as we ourselves are perhaps more concerned about. We have to I think wait to see how Congress is going to to look at this corporation and what recommendations they are going to make as to its composition before we really can react intelligently to it.
What do you feel and should be the attitude of the commercial broadcasting community toward what end is trying to accomplish right now.
Well I think the commercial community has a considerable stake. And what happens in this particular piece of legislation. We have an educational broadcasting as I have indicated a moment ago in talking about distribution of programs work very closely with commercial stations over the years I think that with very few exceptions we are close friends. Many of us have worked in both fields. I worked in commercial radio before I worked in educational radio but I also see that from the point of view of radio as separated let's say from television that commercial radio people are anxious to see radio recognized and to take a fair position along with the other media. And I was interested in a comment made recently in a little publication a newsletter published in New York addressed mainly to commercial broadcasters in which they say foundations and networks. Must be convinced that it would be worthwhile to contribute money to audio and theres not the drama in doing it that there appears to be giving to educational TV or radio however must keep in mind that educational radio can add to the acceptance of radio. Bring it back to consideration as a major medium which this this to me seems to be the general attitude of the education of the commercial radio broadcaster. And as long as it involves his medium whether become racial or noncommercial he will support it as if it means recognition. Thank you very much it was a pleasure talking with you.
Mr A.G. Burrows was tonight's guest on The Truth About radio a WMD w inquiry.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- The truth about radio
- Edwin G. Burrows
- Producing Organization
- WNEW (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Richard Doan interviews Edwin G. Burrows, chairman of National Association of Educational Broadcasters and manager of WUOM at the University of Michigan. He discusses his station and educational radio and television programming.
- A series that features interviews with important figures in the radio industry.
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Host: Doan, Richard
Interviewee: Kole, Delbert M.
Producing Organization: WNEW (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.4-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “The truth about radio; Edwin G. Burrows,” 1967-03-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-nz80qf1z.
- MLA: “The truth about radio; Edwin G. Burrows.” 1967-03-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-nz80qf1z>.
- APA: The truth about radio; Edwin G. Burrows. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-nz80qf1z