The Hidden Medium: A Status Report on Educational Radio in the United States, 1967

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With support building for federal aid to public TV, the advocates of public radio found they had to act quickly to make their case. National Educational Radio, a division of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, hired Herman W. Land Associates to study the field and its potential. The resulting book, The Hidden Medium: A Status Report on Educational Radio in the United States, was published in April 1967.

Overview and Summary

The oldest of the electronic media, going back in service to experimental beginnings as station 9xm in the year 1919, educational radio, almost a half century later, remains virtually unknown as a communications force in its own right. Overshadowed first by commercial radio, then by television, it has suffered long neglect arising from disinterest and apathy among the educational administrators who control much of its fortunes. As a result, it lacks cohesion as a medium, its purposes are varied and often confused, and it struggles for the beginnings of recognition as a potentially valuable national resource. Yet somehow it manages not only to survive and fill its traditional cultural role, but to move forward, innovate, experiment.

Indeed, there are signs that educational radio has begun at last to respond with a budding aggressiveness to the almost overwhelming challenge posed by television; like its commercial counterpart of a decade earlier, it is awakening to the realization that no one medium can be all things to all men all the time, that there is a legitimate important role that it, too, can play in this complex, changing American society. A sense of restlessness among the station managements is noticeable, as though long submerged dreams were being allowed once more to rise to the surface.

What accounts for the signs of ferment, the sense of things about to happen, the passionate and dedicated efforts of its leadership? The causes would seem to lie somewhere in the general forward thrust of the economy, the emergence of new educational technologies in time to coincide with the student population explosion.

Radio Must Meet the Needs of the Total Society

Two basic observations may be made about this period of change which appears to be in its beginning phase:

1. It is marked by a growing awareness within educational radio ranks that just as education itself has long ceased to be a matter of cultural enrichment for the privileged minority, so the medium can only rise to the future by broadening the base of its service to enable it to respond to the developing needs of the total society. Thus, while it can be expected to continue to serve the needs of those already well endowed with the gifts of time, aptitude and interest for things cultural, educational radio is beginning to bestir itself on behalf of the special groups within the society, such as the disadvantaged, the elderly, the minorities, etc., for whom it appears uniquely equipped to fill the media vacuum that generally prevails.

2. A striking feature of the new educational radio scene is its movement in almost direct opposition to the current development in commercial radio. Where, to meet the inexorable competition of television, commercial radio has transformed itself into a local medium, with a steady diminution of network service, educational radio is moving impatiently toward the day of full live network operations. At a time when the scale of commercial network news bureau operation declines in Washington, educational radio brings into being an NER Washington Public Affairs Bureau; in a period which sees long-standing regional networks dissolved by the commercial medium, new plans for state-wide networks are being developed and enthusiastically pushed by educational radio. In this connection, it may be significant that in the face of virtual absence of commercial radio from the Washington satellite discussions, educational radio’s spokesmen participated in enthusiastic anticipation of the new possibilities they see being opened up to them by the world-binding channels in the sky. This is in no way said to disparage the commercial field, but to point to differences in outlook that reflect profoundly different concepts of the primary function of broadcasting in the coming years. From this point of view, the two aural media appear far more complementary than competitive.

The Study Itself a Reflection of the Change

The fact that NER and its membership saw fit to engage in the first major documentation of the educational radio story ever undertaken, that the Ford Foundation was prepared to underwrite the research with a generous grant, that the medium has for the first time appeared in a Presidential message on education and has gone on to become part of the national discussion on new legislation, is in itself a reflection of the change that is occurring.

This research began in December with a mailing of a questionnaire to every station in the United States. Of the 320 stations sent questionnaires, 135 responded; in addition, field interviews were held either in person or by telephone with nearly fifty individuals representing fifty stations and discussions held with many more. The study sought to obtain a comprehensive picture of educational radio as it now functions in this country. Subjects covered included: administration, budgets, operations, research, staffing, programming, equipment, as well as plans for the future.

A Many-Storied Mansion

Any attempt to deal with educational radio as one medium must fail since it is many media in one, like a mansion with many stories, each one of which has its own function and style yet is related by the overall design of the building to its total requirements. Educational radio is direct and supplementary instruction, cultural enrichment, informal adult education, general information; and on any one day, or throughout the year it may be any one of these, or a blending of them all.

It is the classical music station which brings the best in music to a locality which otherwise might be without it; the agricultural station which presents but little music, but which is depended upon for expert information about farming; the in-school station that parents listen to so they can know what their child is being taught; the community station that goes out to seek community groups so they can appear on its air waves.

In this many-storied mansion of educational radio, there were a total of 346 stations at the beginning of April, 1967, with construction permits granted to 18 more and 20 more applications pending before the Federal Communications Commission. Of these 346, 311 use the reserved FM band, 15 use the non-reserved FM band, and 20 are AM stations. Most FM stations are located between 88. 1 and 91.9 megacycles, the band reserved for educational use.

Without the development of FM, in all likelihood the resurgence of educational radio would never have begun. The table below clearly shows that educational FM radio is a post-war phenomenon. It demonstrates the growth of such FM stations.

1938 - 1 	1948 - 29 	1958 - 151 
1939 - 2 	1949 - 48 	1959 - 159 
1940 - 4 	1950 - 73 	1960 - 175 
1941 - 7 	1951 - 85 	1961 - 194 
1942 - 8 	1952 - 98 	1962 - 209      
1943 - 8 	1953 - 112 	1963 - 237 
1944 - 8 	1954 - 122 	1964 - 255 
1945 - 9 	1955 - 123 	1965 - 269
1946 - 10 	1956 - 125 	1966 - 292 (Sept. 1) 
1947 - 17 	1957 - 141 	1967 - 326 (April)

Source: Federal Communications Commission

Many of these (134) are 10-watt, low power, FM stations. They throw a signal a distance of two to five miles and are thus limited in the service they can provide.

There remain, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 20 AM educational radio stations. These, for the most part, are licensed to land grant colleges, those which had the fortitude to continue to broadcast during the difficult decades, 1920 to 1940.

Uneven National Distribution

Because of the uneven development of educational radio facilities geographically, some areas of the country are well served, others are not. The Northeastern quadrant is generally blanketed with educational radio licensees (at least in the major metropolitan centers), as is much of the Great Lakes region and the major cities of the West and the Pacific Coast. But the Southeastern and Southwestern states, along with a number of Plains and Rocky Mountain States are covered inadequately. In short, there is a need to fill in the gaps of existing coverage.

An effort in this direction is a current exploration by the FCC of the nationwide educational Table of Assignments similar to the existing ETV pattern. In light of educational broadcasting’s rapid growth, the FCC is considering the most effective ways to utilize an increasingly crowded spectrum and permit the growth of statewide and regional networks.

As the dominant licensees, with 244 stations, the colleges and universities are the most important group in educational radio. The public school systems are the licensees of over 50 in-school and instructional stations. Another 37 stations are licensed to such diverse bodies as private non-profit institutions, religious groups, independent schools and other miscellaneous institutions of education.

Educational Radio Licensees
FM (Reserved) FM (Non-Reserved) AM
Colleges and Universities 220 8 16
Public School Systems 49 1 1
Independent Schools 10
Biblical Colleges 10 1
State Councils 9 1 1
Educational Organizations 9 4
Public Libraries 3
Municipally Owned 1 1 1
311 15 20
Source: Federal Communications Commission

As might be expected with so many different kinds of licensees, their stations have various kinds of functions. The colleges and higher educational authorities use their stations for cultural enrichment, student training, and in a few cases, for student teaching. In addition, they tend to see their stations as having a public relations purpose. The school districts focus upon direct teaching and supplementary instruction. The non-profit institutions and public libraries are primarily concerned with adult education, particularly cultural enrichment, and the theological groups generally favor informal adult education, with a few accentuating religious education.

That there is some confusion of purpose among educational radio licensees cannot be gainsaid. Many stations, as will be explained later, are left almost entirely without supervision once a budget appropriation is made. Many have not given sufficient thought to how to perform their function most effectively and merely assume they are discharging their responsibilities by broadcasting so-called cultural material. On the other hand, a growing number of licensees believe their stations should have a broad community function. This most often means extending the resources of their academic institution into the community. It is also coming to mean providing other services of value such as news, weather, agricultural information and social problems directly affecting the community.

Hours of Broadcast

Not only does educational radio provide diverse fare, but it also provides long hours of service. Here are hours of operation, as shown by the questionnaire responses:

72 stations nine to sixteen hours
42 stations six up to nine hours
9 stations three up to six hours

59 stations nine to sixteen hours

51 stations nine to sixteen hours

A large number of stations, mostly in-school, do not broadcast on weekends, and many are silent either one day or the other. Educational radio generally broadcasts from 12 noon to 12 midnight. Its service is weakest in the 6 to 9 a. m. early morning hours.


The scope and limits of educational radio today are clearly indicated by the range of operating budgets available to the medium. As Table 1 shows, almost 50% of the stations operate on budgets of less than $20, 000 a year. More than half, or 54%, have budgets under $25, 000. Approximately one third must exist on less than $10, 000 per year. Only about one-seventh of all the stations answering the budget question enjoyed budgets of over $100, 000. A small number have budgets of over $200, 000, and only one over $290, 000.

It is hardly surprising to find a direct connection between budget size and the quality and extent of station programming. True, a number of small stations can demonstrate impressive records of performance, but by and large, the most widely respected stations are those in the higher budget ranks, which have the greater manpower and financial resources. This shows quite strikingly in analysis of station services.

Note that the percentage of stations with budgets of over $100, 000 is highest in the category of stations which have no school ties, those in the Private/Foundation/Church group, of which there were seven in the responding group. This group also tends to have the highest percentage of professional staffing.

The budget level affects total station performance; that is, the higher-budget stations not only excel in quality and scope of performance, they also tend to be superior in all aspects of operation. One can hardly expect more than the minimum ability to stay on the air from a station which reports a total annual operating budget of $760!

Table 1: Present Total Operating Budget
College / university(1) Public School / Library Other Licensees (2) 10 Watts (3) All Others Total
Respondent stations 73 — 100% 26 — 100% 5 — 100% 28 — 100% 76 — 100% 104 — 100% (4)
Those respondents who reported on their present total operating budget:
$1,000 and under 1 — 1% 1 — 4% 2 — 7% 2 — 2%
$1,000-5,000 11 – 15% 4 — 14% 10 — 36% 5 — 7% 15 — 14%
$5,000-10,000 14 — 19% 3 — 12% 10 — 36% 7 — 9% 17 — 16%
$10,000-15,000 4 — 5% 2 — 7% 2 — 3% 4 — 4%
$15,000-20,000 7 — 10% 3 — 12% 1 — 20% 2 — 7% 9 — 12% 11 — 10%
$20,000-25,000 4 — 5% 3 — 12% 7 — 9% 7 — 7%
$25,000-30,000 2 — 3% 1 — 4% 2 — 7% 1 — 1% 3 — 3%
$30,000-35,000 3 — 4% 2 — 8% 5 — 7% 5 — 5%
$35,000-50,000 10 — 14% 3 — 12% 13 — 17% 13 — 12%
$50,000-100,000 5 — 7% 4 — 14% 9 — 11% 9 — 9%
$100,000-150,000 5 — 7% 1 — 20% 6 — 8% 6 — 6%
$150,000-200,000 4 — 5% 1 — 4% 1 — 20% 6 — 8% 6 —6%
$200,000-300,000 2 — 3% 1 — 4% 2 — 40% 5 — 7% 5 — 5%
Over $600,000 1 — 1% 1 — 1% 1 — 1%
(1) — Includes state-owned facilities
(2) — Includes private non-profit organizations, religious institutions, foundations
(3) — Includes stations between 11-19 watts
(4) — 100% represents the number of respondents in each category


As might be expected, the educational radio medium is beset with manpower problems. These arise from the obvious budgetary limitations, the lack of salary and career incentives, and the powerful attraction to the young of television, which has overshadowed the aural medium almost two decades.

Table 2 reveals that an overwhelming percentage of the stations, over 75%, are not adequately staffed, according to the managers’ reports. This is true of all categories of station surveyed. More than three out of four of the respondents definitely so stated and cited specific functions. Almost two- thirds of the stations report that their program staff members serve in other station functions. Among university/college and school district stations, over 60% report that their program people must serve in non- programming, routine, clerical functions as well. This is in contrast to the seven stations in the non-school category, which report that over 70% of their program staffs are not required to serve in other capacities. Of the 75% of the stations which indicated ‘inadequate staffing” on their questionnaires, the vast majority reported having to use from four to over ten part-time employees. The Salary Table 3 reveals the income limits which make it difficult to attract talented people.

Moreover, there do not appear to be many managers who function full-time in station operation. Most often, in the school-connected stations, they combine station management with other functions, such as teaching, departmental administration, TV management, and so forth.

Tables 2 and 2a
College / university(1) Public School / Library Other Licensees (2) 10 Watts (3) All Others Total
Question 71: Are there functions at your station (excluding engineers) which are not adequately staffed?
Respondent stations (4) 98 — 100% 30 — 100% 7 — 100% 30 — 100% 105 — 100% 135 — 100%
Yes: There are functions which are not adequately staffed 77 — 79% 20 — 67% 7 — 100% 14 — 47% 90 — 86% 104 — 77%
No: Functions are adequately staffed 19 — 19% 7 — 23% 14 — 47% 12 — 11% 26 — 19%
No answer 2 — 2% 3 — 10% 2 — 6% 3 — 3% 5 — 4%
Question 70: Do any of your program staff serve in any other station function?
Respondent stations (4) 98 — 100% 30 —100% 7 — 100% 30 — 100% 105 — 100% 135 — 100%
Yes: Station staff do serve in other station functions 62 — 63% 18 — 60% 2 — 29% 18 — 60% 64 — 61% 82 — 61%
No: Program staff serves in no other stations function 36 — 37% 12 — 40% 5 — 71% 12 — 40% 41 — 39% 53 — 39%
Tables 3 and 3a: Present total salary budgets
Respondent stations (4) 72 — 100% 22 — 100% 7 — 100% 25 — 100% 76 — 100% 101 — 100%
Those respondents who reported on their present total salary budgets:
None — no salaries paid 5 — 7% 4 — 16% 1 — 1% 5 — 5%
Less than $1,000 4 — 6% 1 — 5% 5 — 20% 5 — 5%
$1,000-2,500 9 — 13% 1 — 5% 4 — 16% 6 — 8% 10 — 10%
$2,500-5,000 4 — 6% 2 — 8% 2 — 3% 4 — 4%
$5,000-10,000 9 — 13% 3 — 14% 1 — 14% 8 — 32% 5 — 7% 13 — 13%
$10,000-20,000 11 — 15% 6 — 27% 2 — 8% 15 — 20% 17 — 16%
$20,000-35,000 10 — 14% 5 — 23% 15 — 20% 15 — 15%
$35,000-50,000 6 — 8% 2 — 8% 1 — 14% 9 — 12% 9 — 9%
$50,000-75,000 3 — 4% 2 — 8% 1 — 14% 6 — 7% 6 — 6%
$75,000-100,000 1 — 1% 1 — 1% 1 — 1%
$100,000-150,000 7 — 10% 4 — 58% 11 — 14% 11 — 11%
$150,000-200,000 1 — 1% 1 — 5% 2 — 3% 2 — 2%
Over $200,000 2 — 2% 1 — 5% 3 — 4% 3 — 3%
(1) — Includes state-owned facilities
(2) — Includes private non-profit organizations, religious institutions, foundations
(3) — Includes stations between 11-19 watts
(4) — 100% represents the number of respondents in each category

Disinterested School Administrations

Management, staffing and budget limitations are in the final analysis directly related to school administration attitudes toward the medium. With few exceptions, institutions of higher education do not accord radio the same degree of concern they do other interests, and thus fail to develop it fully as an educational resource. This is shown in Table 4 which definitely indicates that most (100) of the legal licensees of the 135 educational radio stations surveyed participate minimally in the operation of the stations. Over two- thirds of the licensees of the stations studied were reported to be active in supervision just once a month or less. In the seven Foundation/Private/Church category, on the other hand, the legal licensee is reported as maintaining a daily supervision of the station’s operations.

In matters of programming, less than one-third show a “Great Deal” of participation in policy decisions. Close to one-half of the stations surveyed indicated that the licensee participates “Very Little.” About 40% of the stations surveyed reported “Very Little” participation on equipment and policy decisions, with the School District group showing the highest score for any category, approximately two-thirds taking a “Great Deal” of interest. It is only on budget policy decisions that the degree of licensee participation becomes significant. Over two-thirds of the respondents reported a “Great Deal” of participation. This held true for all categories of station.

College / university (1) Public School / Library Other Licensees (2) 10 Watts (3) All Others Total
Respondent stations (4) 98 — 100% 30 — 100% 7 — 100% 30 — 100% 105 — 100% 135 — 100%
Table 4: Degree that licensee is active in operation of the station
Question 3: How active is the licensee in the operation of your station?
Daily 20 — 20% 9 — 30% 5 — 71% 9 — 30% 25 — 24% 34 — 25%
Weekly 3 — 3% 2 — 7% 1 — 3% 4 — 4% 5 — 4%
Monthly or less 73 — 75% 19 — 63% 2 — 29% 20 — 67% 74 — 70% 94 — 70%
Don’t know 2 — 2% 2 — 2% 2 — 1%
Table 5: Adequacy of newsroom facilities
Question 77: Has your newsroom adequate facilities — space, desks, typewriters, file capacity, etc.?
Yes: Has adequate facilities 39 — 40% 1 — 3% 2 — 29% 9 — 30% 33 — 31% 42 — 31%
No: Does not have adequate facilities 42 — 43% 9 — 30% 5 — 71% 14 — 47% 42 — 40% 56 — 42%
No newsroom 16 — 16% 19 — 64% 5 — 17% 30 — 29% 35 — 26%
No answer 1 — 1% 1 — 3% 2 — 6% 2 — 1%
Table 6: Does licensee conduct research on size of audience?
Question 36: Do you conduct studies on size of audience?
Yes 32 — 33% 17 — 57% 1 — 14% 13 — 43% 37 — 35% 50 — 37 %
No 51 — 52% 11 — 37% 6 — 86% 11 — 37% 57 — 54% 68 — 51%
No answer 13 — 13% 2 — 6% 5 — 17% 10 — 10% 15 —11%
Not now: planning to do so 2 — 2% 1 — 3% 1 — 1% 2 — 1%
(1) — Includes state-owned facilities
(2) — Includes private non-profit organizations, religious institutions, foundations
(3) — Includes stations between 11-19 watts
(4) — 100% represents the number of respondents in each category

Lack of Facilities

The physical needs of the stations are revealed by the finds recorded in Table 5 One-half of the stations surveyed reported they did not have adequate news room facilities; over one-fourth reported having no news room at all. In other words, the great majority, 68%, either do not have adequate news facilities or a news room. In the school district category, the percentage rises to close to 100%. Similarly, approximately one-half of the respondents reported they are not equipped with the basic musical instruments needed by a station, such as a grand piano or an electric organ.

Weak Promotion

Educational radio station promotion tends to be severely limited or non-existent so that audiences which might find values in specific programs, often do not even know when they are being broadcast. The standard publicity vehicle is the program guide. Since these guides are usually mailed to listeners upon request, and often a small nominal charge is paid, greater than average interest is presumably involved. Yet these program guides range from the few which are beautifully printed and put together, to the many which are simple mimeographed sheets. Even then, except for the larger stations which usually charge for guides, many of the other actually prefer that they do not receive too many requests because of their limited funds. In some areas, partial program listings are carried by newspapers which may also give important editorial space to specific program features and station projects. The cost of mass media advertising makes it obviously prohibitive for educational stations. Unfortunately, the full-time promotion person does not exist in educational radio; with very few exceptions, stations relegate the function to the part-time attention of an inexperienced student. At a time when the mass media barrages the public with sight, sound and print to get his attention, educational radio must rely on the listener s own genuine interest in its services. It is an understatement to say the medium has some distance to go before it even begins to reach its potential audience with its story.

Virtual Absence of Research

Both the questionnaire and field interviews reveal a profound weakness in the medium’s knowledge of its audiences Table 6 shows that over 50% of the stations conduct no audience research of any kind, and only about one-third try to determine the size of the audience. Half the stations conduct no studies of audience composition, or program effectiveness. If it is kept in mind that the School District stations dominate the group of educational stations that do research, and their listeners are captive, the conclusion is inescapable that the majority of stations have little awareness of the nature of their audience, the effectiveness of their programs or the number of their listeners.

There appear to be two reasons for the lack of research. The first is a simple lack of conviction that audience research is either necessary or important, given the cultural orientation of many stations. The second is budget. Research is expensive and stations are ill-equipped to conduct even minimal studies. For example, 42% of the respondents asked to provide an estimate of the number of homes in their areas were unable to do so.

Nevertheless, some data is available, though limited; however, considering the rather inconclusive nature of even FM research in the commercial field, interpretations must at the present period be regarded as speculative. There is no definitive research today which gives the size of the national audience of either educational or commercial FM broadcasting. The best that can be said is that in virtually every market in the leading 200 cities, as measured by the commercial rating services, FM penetration reaches at least a level of 40%, and it may rise, occasionally, as high as 70%. From the estimates submitted by the respondents, Trend Finders Inc., which did the statistical analysis of the questionnaire results for Land Associates, projects a national audience available to educational FM stations of approximately 70,000,000 people.

19 Station Studies

Nineteen stations submitted research studies with their questionnaires. They vary so in technique and aim that they do not allow of ready comparisons. Nevertheless, there is enough agreement among them to permit some tentative observations about the nature and listening behavior of the educational FM audience:

1. Listening is greatest in the evening hours, rising from seven to nine, and “peaking” at ten p. m. This reverses the pattern of commercial radio, whose “prime time” is the morning period, followed in importance by “daytime.”

2. The audiences are generally above average in education and income, and tend to be older than the average audiences listening to the popular music-and-news stations.

3. Although the interest in other programming keeps growing, music remains the preferred material: classical, semi-classical and lighter music, in that order. News, in particular, appears to be one of other program types considered essential by more and more listeners.

It may be no accident that those stations which have made serious efforts to learn something of their audience have often found they enjoy a greater popularity than they may have imagined. In one instance, uncovered by this study, the educational station emerged as the audience leader during a substantial portion of the day against its commercial competition — KWSC, the Washington State University station in Pullman.

Not having access to costly rating surveys, educational stations are forced to rely on the traditional sources of mail, telephone and personal contact with the listener for evidences that they are reaching audiences. An analysis of the questionnaire results demonstrates beyond question that educational radio is reaching a substantial audience with considerable effectiveness. WHA Wisconsin, for example, reports an annual receipt of 7, 000 pieces of mail; WRVR New York City, 25,000. Twenty percent of the stations report they receive over 2500 pieces of mail per year.

Educational Radio Programming

In the face of the severest kind of financial stress, America’s educational radio stations manage nevertheless to provide a remarkable range of program services.

Public Affairs

Public affairs services by educational radio — designed to treat a wide range of public issues in depth and with authority — have grown greatly during the last several years. A principal reason for this expansion is the ease with which tape recordings can now be made of seminars, conferences and other educational forums taking place with increasing frequency on college and university campuses. Such gatherings, often not designed for radio in their initial planning, often turn out to be exciting fare, and some stations broadcast several such forums each week. The University of Minnesota’s KUOM presented 250 public affairs programs in a single year, while KSAC Manhattan, Kansas, spent an entire year broadcasting a thorough treatment of the poverty program.

There seems to be increasing emphasis in the programming of such stations on a variety of domestic problems, such as poverty, minority groups, urban affairs and changing morality. Government issues, educational controversies and international affairs also receive considerable attention. Educational stations attempt to deal with social problems ranging from narcotics and neurosis to criminal law and teen-age marriage. In dealing with minority group difficulties, efforts are made to explore the problems of oft-neglected groups, such as the American Indian and the urban ethnic minorities.

In the international realm, educational radio stations have treated the United Nations and the draft, Southeast Asia and Mainland China, international trade and the world population problem. Outstanding educators and public servants are often able to extend their views on crucial issues to wide new audiences through this medium.

On the operational side, it should be noted that a large number of distinguished outside organizations of various kinds are regular suppliers of programming to educational radio stations.

Community Affairs

Providing cultural enrichment to the community has long been a key objective of educational radio, but, more recently, a new dynamism has emerged — a striving to become more thoroughly involved as a local force, focusing on daily concerns and providing local information and serving as a lively platform for the airing of local issues. Often, the educational station provides the citizen with a vital link to his government on several levels; many such stations serve as the only broadcast outlet for such public bodies as State legislatures, City Councils and Boards of Education — as well as for reports from Senators and Congressmen to their constituents.

Much more remains to be done by educational radio in the field of community affairs. The minimum budgets under which some stations operate often force them to concentrate on college-oriented programs, since they cannot afford to be on the air for enough hours each day to provide the kind of community service they would like to provide. By the same token, the stations are not usually in a financial position to provide minority groups the kinds of assistance they would require to use educational radio as a voice to help them in their aspirations. The use of educational radio, on the other hand, by a great variety of local, regional and national organizations is limited only by their ability to produce suitable material for broadcasting. However, the medium’s potential as a true channel of community communication has yet to be fully realized.

Special Audiences

The special needs of the aged, the blind, the infirm, veterans, the socially disadvantaged, parents of handicapped children and other such groups are beginning to be of concern to educational radio. The medium is beginning to fill a gap in the mass media, by providing in some instances the only existing communications service in this field. A dramatic example is found at the Louisville Free Public Library stations, WFPK and WFPL, which provide, from their extensive tape library, recordings for the Kentucky School for the Blind. A blind professor at the school received a masters degree in Literature with the help of the WFPK-WFPL recordings. Many educational broadcasters feel that an ultimate breakthrough in this area could occur through the wide-scale use of sub-channel multiplexing.


The unique role of educational radio in broadcasting the news lies in providing the depth treatment, analysis and interpretation, which simply do not fit into the conventional capsulized treatments of the news generally available on commercial stations. This includes feature treatment of such special areas as religion, health, the arts and business — traditionally thought of as more the province of the printed media. News for non-English speaking listeners and news for children are other notable areas of service. In Atlanta, Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, presents a children’s news program. In 1965, educational radio achieved something of a landmark with the first live international connection of educational stations for broadcast of the West German National Elections. Seventy stations participated in the broadcast.

General Education

A constant stream of information and new knowledge for adults in a great variety of areas — from politics and economics to scientific developments and Classical history is conventional fare for educational radio. Formats vary, and include lectures, speeches, roundtables, interviews and documentaries. Special programs are planned for children and women and for those with a particular educational interest, even including the acquisition of a new language. The programs include credit courses for students in many fields. A number of stations also produce supplementary written materials in such cases, such as manuals and study guides.


In-school broadcasts for elementary and secondary school students are, by definition, a service unique to educational radio. It is estimated that this service reaches five to ten million children. In the state of Wisconsin alone, the State Educational Network reached an estimated 770, 000 school children in 1965.

Stations do not reach the audiences which they should and could, in some cases, because budgetary limitations have kept many of the schools from installing adequate communications systems to receive in-school broadcasts. When the technology exists, teachers are often not properly instructed in how to use the educational service.

In-school radio is largely an enrichment service. It is relatively inexpensive to produce, and often more easily absorbed than other media by small children. It should be remembered, in this connection, that while television is often an excellent — even indispensable — instructional resource, the extra costs and technical problems involved in many cases are not justified when the same job can be done with radio — often with the added benefits of heightened awareness and imagination. Music and literature are obvious examples.

In New York City, when instructional television was introduced, there was a decrease in the number of classes using in-school radio. Now, five years later, radio has surged back. Some 22, 000 classes—more than the number using instructional television—currently listen to in-school radio.

“Music, news, and drama are better done on radio than television,” observes Mrs. Cecil Suffern, Assistant Director of Broadcasting for the New York City Board of Education, and head of programming for both WNYE and WNYE-TV. “Not only do we have to consider the additional cost of television, but TV does not add a great deal to the instruction we are trying to give.”

Often, both media can be used to supplement one another. Teacher training and enrichment is another area in which many stations provide a needed service.

In-school broadcasting has great potential, but the national picture is mixed — ranging from very creative use to neglect. The support which is needed here is not only financial; but mobilizing of other resources to bring about the more complete integration of the medium into the local educational system is necessary.


The United States Department of Agriculture reports that of 800, 000 broadcasts of its material in 1965, about one-half were carried by educational stations. Many such stations serve primarily rural areas, and some which are owned by the land-grant colleges and universities provide the most outstanding service in this field.

Educational radio provides farmers with agricultural news, reports from their representatives in Washington, marketing information, crop improvement advice, and short courses to keep them abreast of developments in the agricultural sciences. A survey of program offerings in this field clearly indicates that educational radio provides the nation’s farmers with much material which would simply not otherwise be available to them.

Cultural Enrichment

Although, as other sections of this report clearly show, educational stations are far more than “classical juke boxes,” they often do provide the only source of fine music broadcasts in their listening areas. Often, they also are the only outlet for serious contemporary music, and other forms such as the full range of the opera repertoire, chamber music, and uniquely American compositions. It should be emphasized, however, that the strength of educational radio in the cultural field does not rest solely on its musical programming, but rather on its ability to blend other forms of the fine arts.

Radio drama, for example, is thought by many to be a lost art, but many educational radio listeners would disagree. Drama production is being done regularly for radio by individual local stations, which lean heavily upon the acting and writing resources available to them on their campuses and also provide an outlet for such shows as the “BBC World Theatre.” Poetry, children’s literature, readings by artists of their own works, philosophy and even satire, are a part of educational radio fare. This is genuine culture — and reachable culture, for children in urban ghettos, serious students, Indians on reservations, invalids and isolate farmers.

The National Educational Radio Network (NERN)

The National Educational Radio Network is neither an interconnected network nor one which does any centralized production of network programs. Instead, NERN is a national organization of educational radio stations served through the distribution of tape recorded programs by network headquarters in Urbana, Illinois. Programs are duplicated there on high-speed equipment and distributed through the mails to more than 150 NERN affiliates. It has been a self-supporting operation (through the payment of fees by affiliates) for the last 11 of its 16 years. In 1967, it is estimated that the Network will distribute some 35, 400 hours of educational radio programming throughout the United States — on a budget of less than $60, 000.

NERN programs fall into the following categories: current information, physical sciences, arts and literature, social sciences, mental and physical health, music, and children’s programs. In-school offerings are also provided. By and large, such programs are produced by individual network affiliates, but many come from other sources.

Educational radio dreams of a live, interconnected network, a national production center, and a greatly expanded centralized news and public affairs service. In March, 1967 the Network took a first modest step in this direction through the establishment of the NER Public Affairs Bureau in Washington. The present view in the field is that a satisfactory network service could be sustained at an expenditure of only one-tenth of what would be required for television.

Other networks serving educational stations include the Broadcasting Foundation of America, which distributes programming services from abroad to American stations; the Eastern Educational Radio Network — eight Eastern stations which exchange taped programs, cooperate in the production of shows and interconnect live for some broadcasting (which has not proven feasible on a regular basis); and the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System, which serves mainly carrier-current (closed circuit) campus operations with about four and 3/4 hours of material per week.

College / university (1) Public School / Library Other Licensees (2) 10 Watts (3) All Others Total
Respondent stations (4) 85 — 100% 28 — 100% 5 — 100% 26 — 100% 92 — 100% 118 — 100%
Those respondents who reported on their outside sources of programming:
Tables 7 and 7a: Outside sources of programming
Question 66: Roughly how many hours of programming did you schedule in that same year from outside sources?
National Educational Radio 65 — 76% 24 — 86% 1 — 20% 17 — 65% 73 — 79% 90 — 76%
BFA 37 — 44% 2 — 7% 5 — 100% 5 — 19% 40 — 44% 45 — 38%
CBC 47 — 55% 11 — 39% 1 — 20% 7 — 27% 52 — 57% 59 — 50%
BBC 41 — 48% 4 — 14% 4 — 80% 5 — 19% 44 — 49% 49 — 41%
Commercial Networks and Stations 13 — 15% 4 — 14% 1 — 20% 3 — 12% 15 —16% 18 — 15%
All Others 62 — 73% 17 — 61% 2 — 40% 14 — 54% 67 — 73% 81 — 69%
Total number of hours of programming supplied by National Educational Radio to stations using outside sources: 23,689 hours
Total number of hours of programming supplied by all other sources combined 17,122 hours
Table 8 / Question 64: Does licensee supply programming material to commercial stations?
Respondent stations (4) 98 — 100% 30 — 100% 7 — 100% 30 — 100% 105 — 100% 135 — 100%
Yes: We supply programming to commercial stations 61 — 63% 13 — 43% 5 — 71% 16 — 53% 63 — 60% 79 — 59%
No: We do not supply programming to commercial stations 20 — 20% 11 — 37% 8 — 27% 23 — 22% 31 — 23%
No Answer: Did not report if they did or did not 17 — 17% 6 — 20% 2 — 29% 6 — 20% 19 — 18% 25 — 18%
(1) — Includes state-owned facilities
(2) — Includes private non-profit organizations, religious institutions, foundations
(3) — Includes stations between 11-19 watts
(4) — 100% represents the number of respondents in each category

Non-Broadcast Services

A present area of neglected opportunity for education radio is the utilization of its resources for the furnishing of non-broadcast materials. As might be guessed, these services have lagged because of personnel and financial limitations. Some work in this field has been attempted. Stations are reaching out to provide such services for physicians, nurses, audio tutorial laboratories, and educational institutions in developing areas.

Tapes of educational radio programs have a wide variety of applications in such areas as community organizations, which might use them as resources to stimulate discussion. Even without adequate promotional activities, the NER Network and individual educational stations do receive a number of such requests for taped copies of many programs.

Professional Communications

Educational radio was born in professional communications—the transmission of vital, up-to-the-minute, information for specialized audiences, limited in size, but unlimited in their “need to know.” The first regular educational radio service before 1920, was the broadcast of crop and weather information for the benefit of that limited number of farmers who owned crystal sets. Specialized service to small groups with important informational needs is a continuing, and growing, contribution made by educational radio.

The continuing education of doctors, a problem of increasing social importance in an era in which medical knowledge and medical needs are expanding at an exponential rate, provides one of the most dramatic illustrations of the use of radio in professional communications. The Albany Medical College of Union University has been conducting two-way radio communications for postgraduate medical education since 1955. Other medical schools, and other educational stations in the Northeast followed; and similar projects, inspired by Albany’s success have been operating in North Carolina, in Ohio, in Utah, and in California.

In Ohio, additional programs are underway to serve the needs of specialists in veterinary medicine, and to provide the state’s elementary and secondary school teachers and administrators with the most recent available information in the field of education.

The ripples which have spread from Albany Medical College’s successful regional use of two-way professional communications have crossed, not only state lines and academic boundaries, but oceans, as well. In 1965, a medical conference which originated at the WAMC-FM studios in Albany was transmitted by land-lines and trans-Pacific cable to allow two-way participation by doctors in Sydney, Australia. Having reached half-way around the world with professional communications, educational radio has only served to dramatize what yet remains to be accomplished.

Service to Commercial Stations

Educational radio’s audience and its impact cannot be measured by merely adding the audiences of all educational radio stations. One reason is to be found in the little known story of close cooperation between educational and commercial broadcasters.

Table 8 indicates that 59% of the educational stations supply programming to the commercial radio stations.

The range and influence of educational radio has been extended in some cases to a degree never before documented. Examples: WUOM programming from the University of Michigan is used by 111 of the state’s 118 commercial stations . . . KSAC’s K-State Network, the station’s tape distribution service, reaches 95% of all Kansas homes via commercial stations. Some educational stations produce public service programming ‘on order’ to meet the specific requirements of one or more commercial broadcasters.

New Frontiers for Educational Radio

School stations are hoping to expand their services beyond the limits of the conventional classroom and the common curriculum. WBOE Cleveland, for example, would use radio to bring young people the professional insights of physicians and psychiatrists into problems of alcoholism and drug addiction, to tape the knowledge of local executives in helping school-age citizens make realistic vocational plans, to go behind the scenes at the famous Cleveland Playhouse for the Spring Shakespeare Festival. WIAN Indianapolis, would create a “Want Ad Job Center of the Air;” WFBE, Flint, Michigan, would add courses for adults to its present schedule of in-school broadcasts.

Forgotten Audiences”

To the demonstrated success of educational radio as a means of professional communication, would be added specialized programming for and about the forgotten audiences in our affluent society: KUOW, Seattle, will soon begin programming from the University of Washington’s Mental Retardation Center, and will serve the elderly with programs from the Medical School’s Division of Geriatrics. KSAC, Manhattan, Kansas, is hoping to begin a series on the rehabilitation of the young criminal. “Enrichment Through Radio” is the name, and goal, of a Elementary and Secondary Education Act project at WAMU, Washington, designed to teach the culturally and economically under-advantaged. The Palm Beach County School System would give the Spanish-speaking, migrant worker families of southern Florida their own radio station. School programs, conversational English and Spanish, information on baby care, work availability, local and world news, and notices of rummage sales, would all be included in the schedule.

In St. Louis, a local commercial station, KATZ, has taken the leadership in the formation of the St. Louis Educational Assistance Fund which is an applicant for an educational FM frequency. The new station would hope to “touch the inner springs of understanding of the Negro pupil, ” following him from classroom to home, standing at his shoulder, and providing help he might not otherwise get. A “Homework Clinic” could provide for those who might otherwise become drop-outs the same sort of immediate and vital help which doctors now get via WAMC’s two-way radio seminars.


As the identification of multiple audiences grows, and their need for additional channels of communication become more vital, services must be expanded geographically to areas not now reached, and new services provided in increasing number to the many audiences within range of each existing station. In some cities, the broadcast spectrum is already crowded to capacity, and nowhere are there more than twenty-four hours in the day. Solution to the enigma is to be found in multiplexing, a technical minor miracle which permits one or more additional signals to ride “piggy-back” on the main channel transmission of an FM station. The potential of turning a single station into a transmitter of two, three, or more simultaneous service offers a multitude of opportunities.

No list could encompass all of the possible uses for special service envisioned by educational radio broadcasters. Among those mentioned by station managers are: services to the parents of retarded children; to operators of cattle feed lots; for the continuing education of lawyers; to provide language drill materials; to reach prison inmates and hospital patients; to provide teletype and facsimile transmission of graphic materials to farmers; to provide a complete graduate curriculum leading to the masters degree in engineering. WAMC, pioneer in the continuing education of doctors via radio, would use multiplex transmission to extend such services to no fewer than forty-three allied health fields.

But multiplexing provides no easy answers to the problems of today and tomorrow. Programs transmitted on sub-channels cannot be received on conventional sets. Special receivers cost ten times as much as the lowest cost AM-FM receiver; educational broadcasters can hardly be expected to absorb the costs of receiving, as well as transmitting, equipment.

Educational Communications Systems

Multiplexing offers, not only the possibility of additional aural channels, but a means of moving many other forms of electronic information. Sub-channels can transmit data to computers, teletype print-out, hard copy reproduction of charts, graphs, and schematic diagrams, and even slow-scan television. The yet-to-be-recognized fact is that radio is no longer limited to the transitory and the invisible. The educational radio broadcaster is more and more coming to recognize that he is a communicator, and an important participant in the emerging world of “educational systems” — a world in which the lines between television and radio, programmed instruction and computers, technology and textbooks, are becoming blurred, and the task, rather than the technique, dictates in what combinations the growing number of available resources shall be employed.

State-Wide Networks

Plans for state-wide educational radio networks are moving ahead. In Florida, radio stations at 26 junior colleges would provide live interconnection and state-wide coverage. In Kansas, the four existing educational radio stations would be supplemented by three more strategically located transmitters to bring educational radio to all Kansans. An allocations study is underway in Kentucky to determine the parameters for the establishment of a state network.

Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Missouri are other states in which plans for full-coverage radio networks are in various stages of development.

To some degree, educational radio must credit the existence of ETV for the progress being made toward the realization of a 40-year old dream. More accurately, the credit is due to the emerging concept of educational telecommunications systems. In New York, and elsewhere, the development of plans for a state ETV network have provided new opportunities for radio. A network for any single medium can be the substructure upon which multi-media capacity can be constructed for maximal service and flexibility and at minimal cost.

General Observations and Recommendations

Before educational radio can be properly developed as a national resource, there must be clear recognition of the primitive level on which so many parts of the field must operate. When the most important immediate need is an office typewriter — an actual case — talk of new horizons of radio service must appear visionary at best. In sum, the starting point of any national building plan must be the stark truth: educational radio, for the most part, is underfinanced, understaffed, underequipped, underpromoted and underresearched. That its program service is nevertheless exemplary, should not be allowed to obscure its true predicament.

1. The need for financing is self-evident, so much so, indeed, that to dwell on it at length would mean merely to elaborate the obvious. If this study has made anything clear, it is that basic financing is the key need; financing for facilities, equipment, personnel, training, programming and production. Financial assistance is also needed for in-school radio. These stations, now on part-time, could provide service at nights, on week-ends and during the summer months; they could become, in the fullest sense of the phrase, true community stations.

2. There is a profound lack of knowledge in educational radio about itself which only research can fill. Major research studies are necessary to develop information on audience composition and size, and community and special audience needs. The total job that needs to be done in educational broadcasting is so huge that more broad research is needed to develop detailed proposals to cope with the great inadequacies in budget, personnel, facilities and equipment revealed in the present study. At least a beginning is needed to develop audience research, prior to programming, so that it can be integrated into these services, and to do effective research after the program is heard to supply the necessary feedback information so essential to the proper functioning of a dynamic communications medium.

3. There is a need for increased understanding on the part of educators of the resources at their command, of the value of educational radio as part of an integrated system of educational technology; too often the failure of educational radio is in reality only the failure of educational authorities to utilize the medium effectively. As a beginning, they must learn to distinguish those subjects best taught on television, as well as those taught as well or more easily and economically. The cost per pupil is at least two-and-a-half times as high on television as on radio.

4. If the full potential of multiplexing is ever to be realized, a massive attack upon the high cost of receiving equipment must be successfully waged. A partnership between government, industry and education is indicated which looks to large-scale social projects requiring a large volume of receiver production in order to stimulate design and manufacture of low-cost receivers. A pilot project, conducted under the aegis of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, might well be undertaken to test the value of multiplexing in an urban environment.

5. The Federal Communications Commission’s current efforts to develop a Table of Allocations for Educational FM should be pushed to a successful conclusion. Such a Table is essential to the assurance of adequate national coverage and the development of state-wide networks.

6. Educational radio’s ambitions toward national and international coverage should be encouraged and supported. Given commercial radio’s unmistakable, and perhaps irreversible, local trend, there is a decided national stake in building educational radio as a major instrument of national and international communications. The NER Public Affairs Bureau and the NER Network could well serve as the starting point. Radio, moreover, should be included in all plans for satellite communication. Because of the relatively low cost of such radio operation, the early stages could be financed through modest foundation grants until some form of permanent financing emerges through the national discussion on the future pattern of educational broadcasting now under way.

Source: Scanned from a copy of the report in the collection of the National Public Broadcasting Archives.

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