Wednesday, October 7, 2015
It's what you do with the power that counts...
Fifty years ago, as 1965 entered its last lap, we were busy looking ahead and preparing WBAI for the future. As a giant step in that direction, we sought and received permission to increase our power and install a new transmitter atop the Empire State Building. Their powerful antenna had undergone a major upgrade, allowing it to carry a multiple of radio signals, and we were among the first to sign up.
A major improvement was the extended coverage this gave us. Now people could tune us in on small transistor radios from locations that hitherto required, at the very least, a good outdoor antenna. We could also be heard in several in spots that previously had been dead, and we were equipped for stereo broadcasting. Lou Schweitzer had experimented with an early form of stereo transmission a few years back, when WBAI was a small room in the Sherry Netherland hotel, so he was delighted to hear me speak of this "dream" and volunteered to lend us the money we needed.
When your programming has the quality and uniqueness that characterized ours at that time, a powerful transmitter in an ideal location pays for itself. As we predicted, this move increased membership and was thus a sensible investment.
The current mismanagement blames everything but their own ineptitude for the present crisis, including the cost of transmitter room rental and hook-up. True, we did not pay anything near the amount the ESB charges today, but when you scare off nearly your entire listening audience by stagnating at a sub-standard level of audio and content, and target one small segment of a single community within the listening area, the transmitting cost becomes relatively prohibitive. There are other factors in play here, but they have not been addressed in many years.
One of those factors is the lack of information program-ming and otherwise—shared with the audience. A monthly publication called the Folio was sent out to paid WBAI subscribers, giving them not only an extra incentive to send in their annual fee (it was $15 when I left), but also a thorough, detailed listing of our on-air offerings. A look at the Folio Notes for our January 17-February 13, 1966 issue (Click on image to enlarge it) reflects the pride with which we anticipated the switch to our new transmitter.