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This week I’m sharing stories about and paying tribute to one of the all-time great radio people, the late Terry Moss.

Yesterday’s true story was pretty dramatic and little known.

Today’s true story is legendary.

Terry’s best-known contribution to radio personalities around the world continues to bring smiles to DJs and listeners alike: Cheap Radio Thrills — the best and best-selling radio production library of all time.

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…”

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.


The L.A. Air Force Terry Moss Collection

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  • Bruce Murdock October 22, 2014, 6:29 am

    Classic! I actually ran it. Once. Sigh.

  • Dan O'Day October 22, 2014, 10:44 am

    I wish I’d had the chance to run it on-air. Just imagine: Instead of plodding through an unpleasant task that I didn’t even understand anyway (what was happening during that interruption), I would’ve looked forward to it and my audience would have enjoyed it.

  • Janet Connerton October 22, 2014, 11:11 am

    I respectfully disagree. If you want someone to actually hear something, you have to disrupt their pattern of listening. Because we do all kinds of “other stuff” while we listen to the radio, usually we are not paying full attention to what’s being said, or sung. If the test is done with music, I think it would blend in and people could miss the message all together.

  • BigJohn Small October 22, 2014, 12:14 pm

    Fun!! It was very clever!

  • Pete Jensen November 5, 2014, 1:52 pm

    We had a guy many years ago who did a killer Ronald Reagan impression, so for a while our EBS test started with “Well… this is a test…”
    I also used to wander into the lobby occasionally and if I found a prize winner with a unique voice I would ask them to do it. They loved that!
    All legal, as far as I know…

  • Dan O'Day November 5, 2014, 2:01 pm

    @Pete Jensen: Both of those are excellent ideas.


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