This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
From card catalog: Sen. Wm. Benton, member of the executive board of UNESCO and pioneer in radio and television programming, speaks about these mediums: their use, misuse, and potential, and ways he would like to see them operated. He talks about Soviet plans for educational radio and TV and urges greater activity in this field in the US. Question and answer.
Introduction includes brief bio of Benton, including his work in television and radio. Benton applauds Joe Newman for his work in television. Quotes a report about Soviet efforts in educational TV. Russia devotes more of its GNP to education than the US. Soviet correspondence courses using television stations. Farmers taking correspondence courses.
Deficiency of Russian television technology: years behind the US, dull and simple programming, political propaganda takes the place of the American commercial.
Entertainment should always have a place in modern American television.
American people are entitled to diverse programs. Television set technical requirements (ultra-high frequency channels). A chain of subscription channels catering to minority groups for a fee. A story about his idea for starting the first subscription radio service; he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State instead.
The first e-TV station was in Houston, the idea spread. Majority of stations are struggling with finances: rising costs, unable to prepare adult programs. Ford Foundation, business industry, school systems provide money. Federal funding for additional stations. When an e-TV station is authorized by the FCC, private ownership and commercial sponsorship are banned. Why?
The average annual operating budget for an e-TV station is $300,000 plus gifts of services and equipment, $1 per year per viewer. Cites an old article of his own called "How Can Radio Educate?" (LHJ, Oct 1941).
Americans can try to get stations to create more stimulating programs, or we can give educational TV an infusion of new strength. He thinks we should pursue both. Create a National Citizens Advisory Board for Radio and Television. E-TV stations and commercial UHF stations should use subscription techniques. Is there any doubt Americans would pay for this service? Cites music, book, and magazine industries as evidence that they would. Host thanks him.
Three additional ideas for subscription services: investigation in to FCC regulations on e-TV sponsorship; contracts for finding contributors (like Encyclopedia Britannica); taxes (like the BBC), matching grants.
Not to meet the challenge of the Soviets, but to live up to our own standards.
Joe Newman fields questions (which cannot be heard)
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 70404
Municipal archives id: T562
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
I will take no time making a presentation for Senate abetting because all of us have known him now for more than a generation as one of the most provocative and successful original thinkers here in in the United States some people say that it was not Senator betten who commercialized radio but it certainly is true that he was involved back in the twenty's with the Amos and Andy show in Chicago when it was known as the salmon Henry show he is not the inventor of the singing commercial but he was the first one to put sound effects into commercials the sound of a cup of coffee being poured at Benton and Bowles he invented the formula of the variety show with the Maxwell House Showboat in the palm of beauty box and it was also Bill Benton who brought Fred Allen into radio on Town Hall tonight we know his his career since then for a generation now he has been the publisher of the Encyclopedia Britannica we remember his time as vice president of the University of Chicago and what he did at that time to build up the University of Chicago roundtable program on N.B.C. which was probably the most distinguished of the early discussion programs and also the series that he arranged a mutual called the human adventure we remember Senator Betton as assistant secretary of state for public affairs just after World War two when it was his contribution to create the Voice of America which was the first peacetime venture into a governmental information program and now we are well aware of Senator Benton's activities as the United States member on the executive board of UNESCO it is my great pleasure to present Senator Ben. Thank you. President Gore and my friend Joan when the ladies and gentlemen. These remarks of mine today about television are a consequence of my recent appearance on John Newman's television program I told Joe about the article that I have coming out in the squire tomorrow. About the use and misuse of television about its a potential and its importance as I see it and about how we have it out of focus in our country. And Joe with his a journalistic sense urged me to come here today to speak to you twenty four hours to advance to give you a preview I must say I accepted gladly because I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Overseas Press Club and not merely because I have spoken so often to you before but your great friend and admirer Mrs Clare loose even puts the be on me when she discovers you've got a deficit and. Before I know it I'm not putting some of the bills. Now all I've got to confess that I don't look at television very much I'm going to. Make a confession that you spent so much of my boyhood with my ears glued to the radio that this is that and when I sold better than Bowles in one nine hundred thirty five said to me I want you to do me a favor I want you to promise me you'll never listen to the radio again and I said Well my dear it will be a pleasure and I have done my best to apply this rule. And I have applied equally to television the other night when I wanted to look at the much discussed show that was the week that was dining alone in my suite at the Savoy Hilton I had to send down for a bell boy to show me how to turn on the television set. I had had it on since the Nixon Kennedy debates. But I tell you that the words may change on television and radio but the tumor remains the same I have participated on hundreds of television shows far more than I've ever. Looked at my television programs in Connecticut in my last campaign I deem to have been such classics in the field of politics that I want some young students still at this late date to go up and write a Ph D. thesis about them now at the end of my own comments in this area. During your question period I shall however be glad to try to answer questions on any subject that is interest to any of you I have some skill at knowing how not to answer a question and I delighted to take a question so wholly apart from the field to which I am addressing myself today Joe I do want to tell you that your T.V. shows a good example of how television ought to be used on a much broader scale. Social If the social science classes of our high schools and colleges had as a lively discussion as I participated in on the Jones program I would be much less concerned about the performance of our radio and television it's because they haven't in our high schools that we need the programs like Joe is on T.V.. Now I am going to begin with a quotation and I hope you will listen carefully as I read it quotes we recognize clearly the enormous potential of radio and television for education these incomparable media must not be just a waste of time they must be intellectually stimulating vital full of ideas we should utilize these media to educate our people to raise their aesthetic tastes and to help make them more fully developed human beings and quote. These ideas that come jointly from Mr Paley general Sarnoff and Mr Golden's And I think they because for national rejoicing Unhappily they don't they don't come from such sources they were made to me in Moscow by an intense vigorous young man named Michael call arm off and he was describing the broadcasting plans for the people of the Soviet Union I went to see Mr climb off at the urging of Pierre Salinger perhaps some of you know way he was Khrushchev pressed down. Salinger. Worked into but leave together at the so-called summit conference and became became friends Mr Saul and you had the. Hope at least that if I would take some of by him for Tanneke of films over to Mr collage about the president the Congress the Supreme Court other institutions in our government that I might be able to persuade Mr column of to show them on an exchange program on the Soviet T.V. as chairman of the Council of the State Committee on radio and television column on outranks Gromyko in the U.S.S.R. cabinet now that's an interesting little item of information that helps indicate the importance the Soviet Union attaches to radio and television. Nine years ago on the first of my four visits behind the Iron Curtain I did indeed find the gap between Rush's commitment to education and our own alarmingly winded Note that I'm using the word commitment I'm not using the word performance Russia is devoting a much larger percentage of its gross national product to education than we are and it attaches far more importance to education than we do following my last visit a year ago last summer I can report that the fervor for teaching and learning within the Soviet Union has grown even more intense at the projections as to the future and the money and effort to be put into it in future perhaps some of you know Dean Thomas Clark Pollock of New York University he said not long ago television offers the greatest opportunity for the advancement of education since the introduction of printing by Movable Type now the Russians understand this and the new Russian leadership appoints the astute Mr Karloff and his able young staff bustling with plans for the future to implement this goal when I call on kilometer he was supervising the design of a great group of buildings the former Moscow Television Center seemingly a kind of red very sort of Radio City but wholly devoted to radio and T.V. A Seventeen hundred foot tower was under construction six channels are to be utilized plans are being made to ensure good T.V. reception for the whole of the U.S.S.R. which as you know embraces seven times on under study is the possibility of bouncing the signals from. Four Telstar types but makes but the more conventional cable and microwave hook ups are also to be employed. From our standpoint as well as there's of course by far the most significant aspect of their plans is the emphasis on education climb off plans to set aside one full channel entirely for visual support of correspondence courses so a Russian student taking the correspondence courses and with a full channel on T.V. can move right ahead to take its college degree at even advanced training you know if you control all industries the Russians do you can give a correspondence student a month off every year as the Russians do to go to the college or university for a month of personal exposure and in the fourth year of the correspondence courses prior to taking your degree in engineering the Russian industry will give the student six months solve this the final six months at the college or university this is the way they are using the correspondence courses today these will be implemented with a formal television network recently fifty two thousand farmers near Moscow cluster clustered around their T.V. sets in the evening hours as part of a correspondence course in scientific agronomy these students were divided into small groups and attendance was taken and required attendance was taken by a monitoring system instructors checked the required written homework this program as you can imagine reading your own newspapers was a special enthusiasm of Chairman Khrushchev it said to be such a success that plans are underway to expand it throughout the Soviet Union. The T.V. is going to be harnessed to the new chemical industry the new plans for the new fertilizer which is. Occupying such a major role in the new Russian seven year plan one sound says Mr Karmapa is going to be used for support of correspondence courses only in engineering and medicine this is a second chance Only later will it on other channels be used for secondary education that's interesting Their approach is the use of this great medium at the level of higher education more said to me we have plenty of elementary and secondary school teachers we're not going to waste the television on the elementary and secondary school teaching We're going to use it for higher education perhaps I should pause to stress to the cause misunderstand me the manifest deficiencies in Soviet television they have course only have a fraction of the receivers we have in the United States their years behind us in production taken eeks most of their programs unlike most other Soviet manufactured products simple serviceable and often very dull and of course in the Soviet Union the political propaganda takes the place of the American commercial I don't think they overdo it too much because they too are afraid when they overdo the political propaganda the switch is turned off and the sets go dark let me also can see that once the Soviet planning and publish the often out out race Soviet achievement however I think we would do well to take off and his prophecies seriously the Russians far poorer than we are in almost every way are much richer in their zeal for education. They have become begun to grasp the support of the potential of television the broad no man's knowledge to deepen his understanding and enrich his life we have not and this is at least they are far ahead of us in television now I don't want you to think that I think we ought to or would ever want to accept the Soviet model in television I am merely trying to. Emphasize that the outcome of the Cold War is going to turn on which society makes the best use of its intellectual and educational resources I believe this to be true. While we Americans are using T.V. predominately as an avenue of entertainment and escapism the Russians are determined to use it predominantly as an instrument of training and education Yes And of course I concede propaganda Now I'm not speaking against the use of television for entertainment entertainment should always have a major points in our American network television just as the novel will always have a major place in book publishing and no realistic person would suggest otherwise but good as are some of our network programs and Newton I know I associate and so I could P.D. Britannic is glad to concede that there are some that do indeed stretch a man's mind and enlarges arise and there are far too few notes who we explored the vast wasteland warns me not to be too dogmatic even though I don't know voice may sound that way no does the patches of green he's challenged me to watch ten hours of network T.V. in one week and I've agreed to do so I do all at the shore I must say at my age to take on ten hours of T.V. in a week. As I speak to myself up here I feel sorry for myself for the agreement I have had sixteen millimeter prints sent to me of C.B.S. reports in the N.B.C. white papers and of course some of them are very good and last week after my experience with the Week That Was I discovered I liked it a lot more than Jack Gould reported that he liked it the next morning in the paper are commercial television may indeed claim it is functioning in the public convenience and perhaps in the public interest I don't think anyone can argue successfully that it's functioning on the public necessity you remember those three key words in the Communications Act that set up our radio and television industry that it should function in the public interest convenience and necessity for the most part it steers safely along the easy and profitable road marked by audience ratings last week I read in jack boots column that C.B.S. was canceling all programs in prime time that hadn't achieved the twenty percent rate I'm thinking of it only the sports pages and the Daily News that's what we're to have no foreign news no New York Times only escape is going to give them circuses and bread that's what that twenty percent means yet our great commercial system of broadcasting is developed for us some tremendous potential advantages we have the receivers we have the networks the resources the production skills we have something else we've got a trained audience of the seen more movies and more T.V. than any other population what we lack is the viewpoint of the agreement on what is important what we lack is the consensus that the American people are entitled to diversity in programming. After April thirtieth of this year all T.V. sets manufactured in United States and shipped in interstate commerce must be equipped to receive eighty two channels rather than the present twelve channels this is new and I was great achievement most homes will have such all new all channel sets before one thousand and seventy two this should greatly stimulate the use of the seventy so-called ultra high frequency channels now largely neglected because of lack of reception and my hope is that the projected modification of stations will make possible a chain of subscription stations catering to minorities with serious interests and of course for a fee Mr Levine over the cocktails before the dinner reminds me that I was the inventor twenty years ago of subscription radio I put in an application with the help of major Armstrong for three F.M. stations here in New York I was going to operate them with no commercials selling three different programs over the three F.M. stations for five cents a day I was g