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TERRY MOSS CAUSES THE FCC TO SAY: “STOP ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO LISTEN!”

Happy Birthday, Terry Moss

As far as I know, Terry Moss’ first entrepreneurial venture was a monthly aircheck service called CAL-ROCK. As a young DJ, I was a subscriber.

His next contribution to radio personalities around the world continues to bring smiles to DJs and listeners alike: The first volume of what became a 5-LP series, Cheap Radio Thrills.

As any old American DJ will confirm, for many years radio stations were required to broadcast periodic tests of the Emergency Broadcast System. Here’s what the listener would hear:

For the next 60 seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The following is only a test.

That would be followed by this test tone:

Then the announcer would return to say:

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and federal, state, and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news, or instructions. This station serves the [ ] area. This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Invariably the jock would read that copy in a monotone, there’d be silence, then the test tone, then the jock would return to read the close with the same disinterested inflection.

Terry decided to change all that — with these two cuts from Cheap Radio Thrills. Here’s the introduction:

After the intro, the test tone would be broadcast. Then this cut would be played, complete with a donut for the announcer to read the boilerplate copy that begins, “The broadcasters of your area…”

Question: As a listener, which test would you be more likely to pay attention to? The one delivered in the bored monotone, or the musical version?

Clearly far more people would actually listen to the musical rendition — which really upset the FCC. People actually paying attention to the E.B.S. tests??

So in its infinite wisdom, the FCC decreed that the Emergency Broadcast System test could not be sung.

Bored monotone that no one listens to = Good.

Entertaining version that many people listen to = Bad.

Happy birthday, Terry.

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  • Dan Kelley October 25, 2011, 6:38 am

    Terry was great…and what he gave radio was nothing short of fantastic…from production libraries to affordable music scheduling software.

    I got to know him a little bit during his time in Durango; in fact, was able to trade-out Cheap Radio Thrills (just released on CD at that point) as well as the MOM music scheduling. Terry got tires for his vehicles; I got what I needed for my radio station.

    Happy Birthday Terry!

  • Scott Larson October 25, 2011, 7:45 am

    I TOTALLY forgot about this brilliant idea, what amazes me even more is now that EAS is a totally automated process, the statement above is now obsolete, destined to become part of our broadcast history. Happy Birthday Terry, this has only been a test, had this been your actual birthday, you would have been instructed to blow out the candles on your cake and eat ice cream sandwiches.
    Cheers

  • K.M. Richards October 25, 2011, 4:57 pm

    Boy, do I ever remember the singing EBS test. The FCC, in its “ultimate wisdom” said it detracted from the serious nature of the tests.

    Maybe what Terry needed to do was create a singing version of the actual alert message, because that was when the listeners would REALLY need to notice it.

    I was acquainted with the late Terry Moss in the 1970s when he was doing mornings at KFOX in Long Beach and I remember when he first came out with Cheap Radio Thrills. I might have been one of the first few dozen people to order it (on vinyl) back then!

    In writing this, I realized that KFOX (then a daytimer country station) is now owned by the Family Radio Network, home of Harold Camping’s constant predictions about the end of the world. Odds are that if Terry were still among us, he’d have released a jingle “to be played in case of the Apocalypse”.

    Thanks for remembering a true creative talent, Dan, and for keeping his legacy alive by keeping the L.A. Air Force releases available.

  • Dan O'Day October 25, 2011, 7:10 pm

    @K.M.: I, too, was one of the first to order Volume I of Cheap Radio Thrills.

    Kind of a long story, but that was after I’d become one of Terry’s customers but before I knew him.

    Soon afterward, I became the proud owner of a plain vanilla test copy of Volume II — which I still have, somewhere.

    I can’t even imagine what wonderfully creative ways Terry would’ve found to use the Internet.

  • John Pratt October 25, 2011, 8:37 pm

    Although we had Terry’s brilliant EBS test in the production studio, it was never used on the air. But it gave me the idea to surprise my first PD (the Conclave’s Tom Kay) during his WJON airshift. After carefully removing the label from the legit EBS test cart opening, I slapped it on a “revised” version, placed it back in the rack and had the traffic director schedule an EBS test on the program log.

    At the appointed time, Tom punched up the cart and was just about to open the sliding door to the transmitter (remember? Carrier off five seconds/on five seconds/off five seconds, *then* the tone) before the opening mentioned conducting “this test of the Emergency Birthday System.” Tom played along with the duration of the mock birthday party that followed. Or at least I think so; he spotted me watching from across the hall and still I kept my job.

    A tip of the hat to Terry for making that kind of fun both inspirational and contagious.

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