National Association of Educational Broadcasters Convention; Robert L. Shayon - Reel 1 of 2
Most of you know Robert Louis Shea on. As the distinguished contributing editor of The Saturday Review through his weekly television and radio column and his feature articles on broadcasting. Older members of this audience remember Robert knew us. Shay on the far is distinguished career as a writer producer director of some of the most exciting most stimulating radio programs ever created. You are there. The eagle's brood. And this area is needed for any T R C and the N AB stations on education called Everybody's mountain. Or you may remember him as the creator of one of the most original educational television series ever developed. The whole town's talking. But I remember Robert Lu us Shea on as the best darn softball pitcher I ever saw. The occasion was the second Allerton seminar
on educational broadcasting. And Robert was there as the big time network producer you know was going to show us small time educational radio characters something about showbiz. And you can imagine that there was some clashing and clanging of egos and ideas and ideals at least at the start. But we quickly came to appreciate that this was no ordinary Madison Avenue Broadway type but a highly intelligent amazingly literate young man charged with creativity and drive and a sense of dedication to public service and enlightenment that if anything exceeded our own. So we very quickly came to appreciate his understanding and grasp of our problems to accept with good humor his rather devastating analyses of our shortcomings and his sharp jabs at our smug complacency. And he in turn came to appreciate to some extent I think our ideas and ideals and
concerns. So the procedure was that we would have at it hot and heavy all day long and then about 4:30 in the afternoon. We would adjourn to the front lawn of. Allerton house and play baseball. Boy could that Bob Shaye on. Burn them over the plate. And he's been burning them over the plate ever since. As one of the most articulate and most insightful people around who are analyzing the nature of communications in this country and are making hard hitting comments about the broadcasting industry. Besides his writing for the Saturday Review and other periodicals he lectures frequently before university professional and civic groups and we are most happy to comprise his audience this morning. He's going to address himself to the topic of the responsibility in educational broadcasting. So Bob let me say it to you this way. Batters up start pitching.
Thank you. Good luck. Thank you bell for that very warm and nostalgic introduction. I've never spoken to a room full of banquet tables directly facing the speaker. I feel somewhat. Like the first cos in a good mood click menu. The best story that comes to my mind about a keynote situation goes back to the early days of commercial radio. There was a man called George Washington Hill. The names perhaps familiar to many of you. It was responsible for the Lucky Strike hit parade. It was a very aggressive Madison Avenue type and he was always putting
together programs that had given zest and loudness. And he decided to put together a big program for a manufacturer of beer. It was not a Milwaukee concern. It was Rupert spear back east. I hope you'll forgive me for bringing that name up. He assembled. A very large orchestra. A very well-known conductor. Stirring soloists and the most pear shaped toned announcer he could find. And the program was supposed to open with a tremendous blare of trumpets and a flourish. And then the announcer was to say Rupert's bear is on the air. Well the orchestra sampled the soloist with. The sponsor was there. The
director nervously through his opening cue keynote. The orchestra flourished its blare of trumpets and the proud announcer bled falloff who puts reraise on the air. One of the most famous fluffs in the business and the end of that particular audition. It's a pleasure to be here in Milwaukee. Talking to you. Meeting so many of my own and treasured friends and educational broadcasting. And I want to turn the vein of my remarks from the ridiculous to if not the sublime the very grave. I have in my hand a very small book was published in
1946. I picked it up at a newsstand somewhere secondhand. I was attracted by the name of the author. The title which was unfamiliar to me and his compendium of works and I read it with shocked amazement. I want to read the opening paragraphs to you. The end closes in upon the mind the writer finds very considerable reason for believing that within a period to be estimated by weeks and months rather than by EON's there has been a fundamental change in the conditions under which life not simply human life but all self-conscious existence has been going on since its beginning. This is a very startling persuasion to find establishing itself in one's mind and he puts forward his conclusions in the certainty that they will be entirely acceptable to the ordinary rational
man. If his thinking is be unsound in this world is at the end of its tether. The writer is convinced that there is no way out or around or through the impasse. This is the end. I'm sure you will be a stockholder as I was to discover that the man who wrote these words was H.G. Wells. He described this book as his last literary will and testament. He said it superseded everything it ever written or thought about before. And he wanted all his other great and famous socialistic optimistic rationalist works to go down the laboratory sink. This was the last thing he had to say to the race of mankind. The race about whose fate he called mind the famous epigram. We are involved in a race between education
and disaster. H.G. Wells thought the race was lost and over and finished with 1946 befogged television was E.L. with this in mind in his dotage. I don't know I've never been able to find out I've never been able to find any reference to this work in any of the works of H.G. Wells or bibliographies it was published by a small unknown New York Press. This note of despair that Wells sounds finds echo in many thoughtful people today. Last night at dinner with some of my old friends we were reminiscing we were jesting about Alec and House and the whole town's talking. But the talk inevitably turned to the state of democracy to a feeling of despair about it to wonder about the Western ideas of progress. We live in an age under the shadow of Freud.
The first world war Hitler doco. We are haunted by the ghosts of that age. I was in London recently and the two most significant productions were all had a lovely wall which is a mocking biting cynical irreverent satire on World War 1 and the representative Sharpe questing analysis of the position of the Catholic Church and its responsibility in the elimination of six million Jews by the Nazis in World War 2. We go about our daily affairs in our affections our interests even our indignations. And we are not aware of these ghosts but they are there. And from my keynote theme I want to remind you about them for as broadcast as these ghosts where more shop play than any other. The Masks of the mass
media with their intensification of emotion and degradation of significance in the probing phrase of Walter Lippmann tied up. Is the image of the common man the masses as they are called in modern technological and industrial society. The image is not a very hopeful one man perhaps not utterly irrational but certainly lethargic caring less for truth than the satisfaction of his desires. Capable of reasoning but love to do so and easy pray for demagogues and pitchmen all capable of violent and passionate on reasoning founded. On his black and white view of the world. The common man is manipulated by power groups who control the mass media. He is a far cry from the image of man of the Enlightenment rational
needing only the free play of the marketplace to find unerringly the truth. Needing only the opportunity to learn to inquire to seek out information and knowledge and decide his own fate the fate of the individual made in the image and likeness of God. Of course we are constantly told there are hopeful signs especially in communications class barriers are melting away. Education is becoming more widespread and rigorous. We are told about the paperback revolution the symphony orchestras and the drama groups etc. etc.. But somehow we are hardly convinced if we are not cynical then we are at least skeptical. It is a gloomy state of mind. What has all this to do with a convention of educational broadcasters. A very great deal. It may be beyond your capacity or that of any group to turn the tide. But at least you care about turning it.
You may not be able to do it alone but you have the outlines of significant power in your hands. If you stand at the crossroads of two of society's most important streams of traffic education and communication and it can be influenced by what you do you have a sense of responsibility in this matter and is broadcast as you are directly and intimately involved with the only two institutions which have any chance of modifying the contemporary dismal prospect for a twentieth century man. The apotheosis of the happy consumer. The two institutions of the school and the community. But before you can begin to exert any influence you must release your fullest power and that you are not doing. You are limping along at low speed and I don't think the fact that you are young is an acceptable
apology any more. The commercial broadcast as a young to yet considered Air Force in Austin sighed. Now I don't propose to offer you any solutions for your problem. No one is wise enough to do that. I feel very much as Abraham Lincoln did when he was a military commander. In the Blackhawk wall leading his detachment. He came to a high fence and not knowing the military command for crossing the fence with characteristic link Conium like carnitine. He ordered his men to break ranks and reassemble on the other side of the fence. My favorite educational philosopher is a in white head and he says somewhere I should be the chief aim of a university professor to exhibit himself in his
own true character that he is as an ignorant man thinking actively utilizing his small share of wisdom. What's good enough for a university professor is good enough for me. There are some things that you can do to release your power. They are your most important responsibilities as educational broadcasters. One you can improve your product whether it be cultural of public affairs programs being to the general public or programs designed to teach skills in subject matter in school or out. I watch educational broadcasting from time to time and listen to it and it will come as no surprise to you to hear that it does not cap to make captivate me. I am soft on education always have been sympathetic to educational broadcasters and I pray nightly for their prosperity. But it lacks impact of cos there are exceptions and whenever whenever I find
them I take great pleasure in appreciating them publicly. But your output continues pallid generally. You've often been told that you lack quote showmanship in defense educational broadcasters often say their programs are for people who want to think who bring serious attention to the program not a tired man's need for distraction. I think both the accusation and the defense are too simple. I think the problem has a deeper level. It penetrates to the level of your image of yourselves. Your definition of educational broadcasting. We have been enriched by the explorations of the symbolists in linguistics and they teach us that the experience of a thing is in the very name being of it. Right now there is great confusion in your naming of yourself. I mean not only the variety of communications people that you embrace the distinctions between community broadcasters doing broad cultural programmes
beamed to the general public and the school broadcasters working with instructional television. I mean not only stations affiliated with National Educational Television as opposed to those who use net as they please or disaffiliate altogether these are mean surface distinctions. I mean you must clear up the basic philosophical understanding about your role as educational broadcasters. Bill is your president and the pioneer educational broadcaster from this very state. He ought to know what you are. Yet consider his speech to this convention last year in Philadelphia. Which I read with interest. He said there is a technological revolution in education. We're in the age of hot where you'll find them outside in the exhibit hall. It's the implications of this age of hardware are very great. Quote overnight the educational broadcasting field has been discovered and embraced by all kinds of people librarians film specialists psychologists ex teens
and school principals are all rushing into the act. If these people are competent he said they deserve to take over. But he goes on in my judgment the best qualified hostilely educational broadcasters they have the talent dedication and zeal for leadership. Then he continues. If they are to exert leadership they must be truly educated first and educational broadcasts the second. Bill seems to want to turn educators into broadcasters and broadcasters into educators. The precise mixture is rather vague. This is not a semantic quibble. The split in your psyche has been endemic and chronic from the very beginning of your history. It still continues to touch you and until you get a clearer view of what you really are or should be you will continue to behave neurotically. Let's try some semantic therapy. What is an educator. I think I know that's the easy a pot Professor Whitehead said. An Education which does not begin by
involving initiative and end by encouraging it must be wrong for its whole aim is the production of active wisdom and code. The interest in and curiosity for and wonder about ideas the conception of the mind not as a box to pack but as a dynamic growing thing tending also to morality forces Whitehead Marl education is impossible apart from the hymn peculiar vision of greatness. And finally the setting in order of the ferment of the mind. Such qualities constitute some of the aims of education. And if the schools fail to educate at least we know the measure of their failure. But what is a broadcast. Broadcasting. At its outer limits. Only 50 years old perhaps 40 began in the 1980s who were the first broadcasters inventors like Dr. Lee from the forest unemployed salesman caught up in the Depression
show biz people from Chautauqua involved of the. Copyright is for advertising agencies. It's a wonderful story that was told today by an old NBC veteran he was formerly vice president in charge of programming. Some of you may know his name John Russell. He came from Chautauqua in show business and he told me the story of how Jack Benny got into radio. At that time radio was seeking to enlist vaudeville people for the gift of laughter to the masses. They used to send Cadillacs and limousines to theaters after the show to carry the George Jessel Zin the Eddie Cantor has two small studios in New Jersey the vaudevillians would always come and inevitably fall flat on their face without an audience in front of their microphones. But Jack Benny was doing wonderfully involve them. He was earning twenty five hundred dollars a week and doing his single act year in year out and Ryle came to him and said
Jack we want you to go on radio. And Jack said why should I. You can't pay me anything and I'm making twenty five hundred dollars a week. And Ryle said yes Jack but there's a big audience coming and you'll be able to make more money. I'll tell you what we'll do we'll give you $3000 a week to do a weekly radio program. And Benny said three thousand dollars a week. I don't deserve it. And Ross said take it any way and try. So Benny took the $3000 and did a weekly radio program and it was a big hit and one contract renewal time came around. Royal came to Benny and said Benny you're a hit. We want you to go on making the public laugh. We'll give you nine thousand dollars a week. And Benny says nine thousand dollars a week. I don't deserve it. But he took the $9000 and you went on. And became even more of a smash. And when his contract expired Royal came to him and said Jack you're the biggest thing in American
broadcasting. We want to renew your contract and we're going to pay you thirty thousand dollars a week. And Benny said thirty thousand dollars a week. I deserve it. These were some of the people that made out the new species of broadcasters. A mutation in the communications organism. Now what is the nature of broadcasting communication and how does it differ from print. A book is a technological tool but broadcasting is electronics and there is a significant difference. When we read a book we are in control of the speed of the interaction between ourselves and the print. We can stop reflect take up the book again in a classroom situation the teacher is in control. She can control her rate of communication stop go back repeat an electronic broadcasting. The control is preset rigid. It can be
started or stopped by both sender and receiver. But once allowed to flow it flows past the receiver in a rigid flow of time. It is impersonal addressed to all and to no one in particular. It is not point to point communication. The lack of control is the crucial factor. It is the packaging of human experience for impersonal inflexible distribution. That's what broadcasting is.
- Robert L. Shayon - Reel 1 of 2
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