WASHINGTON, (AP) The radio industry viewed a hobgoblin more terrifying to it than any Halloween spook. The prospect of increasing federal control of broadcasts was discussed here as an aftermath of a radio presentation of an H. G. Wells' imaginative story which caused many listeners to believe that men from Mars had invaded the United States with death rays.
When reports of terror that accompanied th fantastic drama reached teh communications commission there was a growing feeling that "something should be done about it." Commission officials explained that the law conferred upon it no general regulatory power over broadcasts. Certain specific offenses, such as obscenity, are forbidden, and the commission has the right to refuse license renewal to any station which ahs not been operating "in the public interest." All station licenses must be renewed every six months.
Within the commission there has developed strong opposition to using the public interest clause to impose restrictions upon programs. commissioner T. A. M. Craven has been particularly outspoken against anything resembling censorship and he repeated his warning that the commission should make no attempt at "censoring what shall or shall not be said over the radio."
"The public does not want a spineless radio," he said.
Commissioner George Henry Payne recalled that last November he had protested against broadcasts that "produced terrorism and nightmares among children" and said that for two years he had urged that there be a "standard of broadcasts."
Saying that radio is an entirely different medium from the theater or lecture platform, Payne added: "People who have material broadcast into their homes without warnings have a right to protection. Too many broadcasters have insisted that they could broadcast anything they liked, contending that they were protected by the prohibition of censorship. Certainly when people are injured morally, physically, spiritually and psychically, they have just as much right to complain as if the laws against obscenity and indecency were violated."
The commission called upon Columbia Broadcasting system, which presented the fantasy, to submit a transcript and electrical recording of it. None of the commissioners who could be reached for comment had heard the program.
The broadcasters themselves were quick to give assurances that the technique used in the program would not be repeated. Orson Welles, who adapted "The War of the worlds," expressed his regrets.
The Columbia network called attention to the fact that on Sunday night it assured its listeners the story was wholly imaginary, and W. B. Lewis, its vice president in charge of programs, said: "In order that this may not happen again, the program department hereafter will not use the technique of a stimulated news broadcast within a dramatization when the circumstances of the broadcast could cause immediate alarm to numbers of listeners."
The National Association of Broadcasters, thru its president, Neville Miller, expressed formal regret for the misinterpretation of the program. "This instance emphasizes the responsibility we assume in the use of radio and renews our determination to fulfill to the highest degree our obligation to the public," Miller said. "I know that the Columbia Broadcasting system and those of us in radio have only the most profound regret that the composure of many of our fellow citizens was disturbed by the vivid Orson Welles broadcast. The Columbia Broadcasting system has taken immediate steps to insure that such program technique will not be used again."
Chairman Frank R. McNinch, of the communications commission, declaring that he would withhold judgment of the program until later, said: "The widespread public reaction to this broadcast, as indicated by the press, is another demonstration of the power and force of radio and points out again the serious responsibility of those who are licensed to operate stations."
NEW YORK, (AP). Urgent demands for federal investigation multiplied in the wake of the ultra-realistic radio drama that spread mas hysteria among listeners across the nationwith its "news broadcast" fantasy of octopuslike monsters from Mars invading the United States and annihilating cities and populaces with a lethal "heat ray."
While officials at the Harvard astronomical observatory calmed fears of such a conquest by space devouring hordes from another planet with the ry comment that there was no evidence of higher life existing on Mars--some 40,000,000 miles distant--local and federal officials acted to prevent a repetition of such a nightmarish episode.
As for the 22 year old "man from Mars" himself, Orson Welles, youthful actor manager and theatrical prodigy, whose vivid dramatization of H. G. Wells' imaginative "The War of the Worlds" jumped the pulse beat of radio listeners, declared himself "just stunned" by the reaction. "Everything seems like a dream," he said.
The Columbia Bradcasting system whose network sent the spine chillling dramatization into millions of homes issued a statement expressing "regrets" and announced that hereafter it would not use the "technique of a simulated news broadcast" which might "cause immediate alarm" among listeners.
WASHINGTON, (AP). Military experts here foresee, in time of war, radio loudspeakers in every public square in the United States and a system of voluntary self-regulation of radio. This is the lesson they draw from Sunday night's drama about an invasion by men from Mars armed with death rays.
What struck the military listeners most about the radio play was its immediate emotional effect. Thousands of persons believed a real invasion had been unleased. They exhibited all the symptoms of fear, panic, determination to resist, desperation, bravery, excitement or fatalism that real war would have produced. Military men declare that such widespread reactions shows the government will have to insist on the close co-operatoin of radio in any future war.
The experts believe this could be accomplished by voluntary agreement among the radio stations to refrain from over-dramatizing war announcements which would react on the public like Sunday night's fictional announcement. They recall that the newspapers adopted voluntary self-regulation during the World war and worked in close co-operation with the government.
Moreover, since radio admittedly has so immediate an effect, the experts believe every person in the United States will have to be given facilities for listening in if war ever comes. Consequently radios with loud speakers will have to be installed in all public squares, large and small. Persons not having radios in their homes can listen in thru those.
TORONTO, (Canadian Press). Gordon Conant, attorney general of Ontario, said his department did not plan action over the broadcast of a realistic radio drama which, eminating from the United States and re-broadcast here, caused widespread alarm. "I don't know of any action we could take," Conant said. "The difficulty is that only after these things happen can it be decided that they are not in the public interest. It is certainly not in the public interest that such broadcasts should be allowed."