Senator William Benton

Thursday, February 13, 1964

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

Hosted by:

Joe Newman


William Benton


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Comprised of both speeches and question-answer sessions, this news program brings together foreign correspondents and public figures from culture and politics.

The Overseas Press Club (1940-1967) contains voices from the past that help us understand their time and place in history. What sets these talks apart from others like them is the presence of a live audience of foreign correspondents — reporters with international perspectives and questions. The resulting sessions have a distinctly different dynamic than would those with an audience of American journalists of the period.

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