On this, the 72 anniversary of War of the Worlds

It was early evening when most people were sitting down to enjoy the latest edition of Mercury Theater on the Air on CBS.  After a brief narration by Orson Wells, which is set a year ahead of the actual date, there was a flash forward and brief weather forecast.  It then seemed that the show was not going to be on as Ramon Raquello and is orchestra were performing dance music when the music faded down and the announcer came on the air slightly out of breath:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you this special bulletin from the intercontinental radio news…

It was a great piece of theater, too realistic for many, others tuned in late and panic ensued.  People raced out of their houses, went to confession and didn’t pay for gas.  There were reports of long alien ships landing in New Jersey and incinerating crowds with heat rays. Then the black poison gas, oh, the black poison gas.

The day after, New York Times reported that up to 1.2 million people felt they were in grave danger and the world was ending.  It is hard to imagine how they came to that number, especially overnight for printing the next day.

Naturally, those commie federal regulators were having none of it, and the FCC proclaimed that broadcast hoaxes would not be tolerated, even promoligating a rule, 73.1217, stating, in part:

No licensee or permittee of any broadcast station shall broadcast false information concerning a crime or a catastrophe if: (a) The licensee knows this information is false; (b) It is forseeable that broadcast of the information will cause substantial public harm, and (c) Broadcast of the information does in fact directly cause substantial public harm.

There are some radio stations that still broadcast this show every Halloween, with the appropriate disclaimers, of course.  For those that want to hear the War of the Worlds, go to Radio Heard Here.  It is really a great show.

Happy Halloween!

Update:  Occasional reader Sandy sends along this link to the WKBW 1968 version, which was purported to be every bit as real as the 1938 version.  The station was deluged with phone calls.  In fact, legend has it that when the broadcast ended a little after midnight, show producer Jeff Kayne slipped his resignation letter under the General Manager’s door.

WOWO EBS activation

An oldie, but a goodie, February 20, 1971, WOWO gets a EAN via AP teletype and follows procedure:

Back in the days of EBS, there were weekly closed circuit tests via AP and UPI teletype. In the event of a real Emergency Action Notification (EAN) there was a red envelope that contained a set of code words for each month. The test code words were on the outside of the envelope. If a EAN was received, the envelope would be torn open and the actual code words would be matched against the code words in the message. If it were authenticated, then the station would do just what WOWO did right then, send the two tone EBS alert for 25 seconds  and break into programming.

It is amazing that this did not happen more often, especially on a Saturday morning with some a sleepy Airman in Colorado pulling the wrong message tape off the rack at the message center responsible for the whole system.

It has happened more recently when an EAS message was sent to evacuate the entire state of Connecticut.  A EAN was sent in Chicago warning of a national attack when state officials were testing their new system.  I am sure that others have been sent as well.

I suppose the emergency notification has always left something to be desired.

HD Radio equipment, on trade

It has been about a month now, has anyone taken them up on this:

iBiquity Digital and Citadel Media announced a partnership which will enable stations to upgrade to digital while avoiding cash expenditure. Stations will have the opportunity to provide on-air inventory to Citadel Media in exchange for the HD Radio license fee and equipment supplied by Broadcast Electronics, Continental, Harris and Nautel.

I was sure that my former employer, now that I have left the company, would at least look into this.  I know there are many other frugal like minded companies out there that look at trade as being “free.”  Anytime I had a building project, like paving the parking lot or replacing the roof membrane, the first question asked was “Can we trade it?”  I hated dealing with trade.  Often, it would end up as a half paved parking lot and the general manager asking “Gee, what happened?”

I would be surprised if this iBiquity scheme didn’t generate at least some interest in the HD radio holdouts. Has anybody heard anything else on this?