Sunday, December 17, 2006

Catching up on reading

I've been perusing some books on radio broadcasting which I picked up at a used book store outside of West Chester, PA last month. One of which is a 1980 book called Radio in the Television Age by Peter Fornatale and Joshua E. Mills (Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1980; ISBN: 0-87951-106-0) which discusses what happened to radio [and not in the usual negative way that golden age radio broadcast historians like to proclaim] after the dissolution of networks, and the fall of network programming.

From the book jacket:
"The authors...discuss: the impact of commercial television on radio programming, listenership, and advertising revenues in the 50s, 60s, and 70s; the great technological inventions--the transistor, FM, car, and clock radios...the creation of formats--including Top 40, All-News, country-and-Western, Disco, and classical music...and the pervasive influence of rock-and-rol ont he industry."

Being that this book was written in 1980, they can't get that deep into the great FCC deregulation of the 1980s, but it had started by that time. There is a good chapter on the history of non-commercial radio, including public access, community radio, college low-wattage stations, the Pacifica stations, and National Public Radio.

They start out with some interesting statistics (bearing in mind, again, this is 1980):

* There are nearly twice as many radios in the U.S. as there are people.
* More than 95 percent of America's cars have radios, and the average household has 5.7 sets.
* About 71 percent of American bedrooms are equipped with radios, and 60 percent of all homes have clock radios.

There are lots of amusing anecdotes about the power of listening and how radio has saved lives by playing the right song at the right time to depressed listeners.

I'll leave you with a story about a local station and the "service" it provided to its listeners:

Religious broadcasts on WOOK, Washington, D.C., that proved to be tips on numbers to bet in lottery rackets. A typical sermon: "The first three figures is 547...My God, my God. And take the mysterious two that was blessed through last week, if you place it on the five you'll see it's still working for you, and the 74th and the seventh verse was a blessing to Washington, D.C." The station lost its license in 1975 (xx).


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