What About CB Radio?
HER husband was having a heart attack. Stopping on the highway, she flagged down a passing motorist, who happened to be a trained nurse. Grasping the urgency at once, the nurse remembered that her husband had just installed a CB (Citizens Band) radio in their car. “I don’t know how to use this thing,” she called into the microphone, “but I have a very sick man here.” Shortly an emergency squad appeared and rushed the man to the hospital.
Emergency rescues similar to this are becoming commonplace on American highways, since fascination with CB radio recently swept across the nation. Though government provision for a Citizens Band has existed for almost 20 years, “it took 16 years, 1958 to 1974, for us to get to the first million licensees,” said a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) official. “Then it took eight months to get the second million, and three months to get the third.” Since then the number of licensees has multiplied again.
Because many operators have more than one unit, and many others transmit illegally without licenses, some authorities estimate that now there are more than 20 million CB radios in use. Nearly one out of every 10 passenger cars and well over half of all long-distance trucks are reportedly so equipped, and the FCC official in charge of CB regulation predicts that someday there may be as many as 60 million license holders. One promoter of the generally inexpensive, easily installed units enthused: “CBs will be like alarm clocks—every home will have one.”
Some say that the CB phenomenon represents “the biggest explosion of communications since the invention of the telephone.” Others forecast that its social effect on Americans may be almost as profound as that of television. Why this sudden surge of interest in CB radio?
CB Gets a Questionable Boost
CB hit the news close on the heels of the oil crisis. U.S. fuel prices almost doubled and the government reduced the nation’s maximum speed limit to 55 m.p.h. (89 k.p.h.), hitting American truckers where it hurt. Angered over their sudden cut in income from the price hike and lengthened trucking schedules, they protested. Using road blockades to snarl traffic, they coordinated their actions by means of their CB radios. National news and television picked up the story, publicizing the plight of the beleaguered truckers, bound together with CB radios and their own special “CB language.”
Outwitting the “Smokey Bears” (state traffic police) also became an almost Robin Hood-like adventure. CB radios flashed locations of police patrols and truck-weighing stations over the air. Speed and weight limits were broken with a devil-may-care attitude. Of course, broadcasters of information aimed at breaking the law chose not to identify themselves. The FCC-required CB license call letters were replaced with comic names such as Rubber Ducky, Big Daddy, Phantom Lady and others that appealed to the drivers’ own egos.
The special “CB language” also prevailed, using words, numbers and expressions known mainly to those who became part of the CB “club.” A compact car became a “roller skate”; a four-lane highway, a “super-slab”; a talkative person, a “ratchet-jaw?’
All of this caught the imagination of the public, and many wanted to join the “fun.” “With such secret-fraternity language to give humor and spice to the game,” writes a CB user in the New York Times Magazine, “the new breed of C.B.er has made a project of avoiding arrest for speeding. . . . a lot of operators also ignore Federal Communications Commission rules. So a great deal of Citizens Band use has an outlaw character.”
Hence, it is evident that, while many may be enthusiastic about the potential that CB has for good, its background and use are not without questionable aspects. A closer look at the uses and misuses of CB will help to gain a balanced view of the subject. First, some benefits . . .
Imagine yourself stranded out on a desolate stretch of road in the southwestern United States—a flat tire or an empty gas tank for company. Recently a reporter for The Wall Street Journal purposely set himself up in these situations and called for help on his CB radio to see what would happen. In both cases, someone stopped in less than five minutes and gladly helped to get the newsman back on the road again, without charge.
Information far more useful to honest travelers than “Smokey” locations is also available over CB radio. Help in finding campsites, inexpensive motels, good restaurants, mechanics, post offices and other local information is a service that CBers cheerfully render to each other. “In some cases,” says one, “we have even been told to pull over and wait, and within a minute or two we have had an escort to lead us where we wanted to go.”
Reports of accidents, breakdowns, road hazards, traffic jams, drunk drivers, crimes, and even speeders crackle over the Citizens Band. Some law-enforcement agencies are taking advantage of this instant information. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, for example, equipped over 700 patrol cars and nine troop headquarters with CB radios that monitor the emergency channel, 9. As a result, each month hundreds of stranded Missouri motorists or those injured in accidents receive prompt assistance, while hundreds of others are arrested for drunken driving, speeding and other crimes. Noting the potential of CB for highway safety, the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a program encouraging CB operators to report emergency information.
Long-distance truckers have found that CB helps them to stay awake on their lonely drives. Before CB, said one, “I was being bored to death. I used to do anything to occupy my mind and stay alert.” But now, he says, “It’s a whole new world.” A drastic reduction in the amount of amphetamines that truckers use to stay awake has resulted.
Husbands have also found that CB is a very convenient way to let their wives know when to get a meal ready after work, or to advise them that they will be late due to a traffic jam or some other problem. Farmers working far from the farmhouse find that CB radio offers them similar advantages.
Clearly there are many practical benefits that CB radio can provide for the highway traveler and others. However, as is the case with other modern conveniences, there are certain pitfalls that a wise person will consider so that this convenience will be his servant, not his master.
According to FCC regulations, the purpose of the Citizens Band is “to provide for private short-distance radiocommunications service for the business or personal activities of licensees.” The regulations prohibit use of CB equipment for any purpose “contrary to Federal, State or local law.” Transmission of “obscene, indecent, profane words, language or meaning” is also banned, as are “music, whistling, sound effects, or any material for amusement or entertainment purposes.”
Obviously much of what is currently transmitted over CB radio does not conform to the law. And encouragement to break traffic laws, transmitting without a license or failure to use call letters are not the only questionable practices among some CB users. With so many millions on the air, more and more people are using their equipment without regard for others.
For example, some people, in their desire to be heard, jack up the power of their sets far above the legally authorized 4 watts. This frequently causes what is called “bleed-over” into other CB channels, interfering with their reception. Also, this often interferes with nearby radios, television sets and other electronic equipment. When U.S. marshals raided the homes of seven illegally operating New Jersey CBers and confiscated their equipment, they found that some of the units were transmitting with over 1,000 watts of power!
Other CB abuses include “hogging” a channel by individuals or groups who then threaten anyone else who tries to use “their channel.” Many people talk far longer than the legally allowed five minutes, as well as neglecting the required one-minute break between transmissions.
Foul language and immoral “humor” also are problems. Writes one disillusioned operator to CB Magazine: “I am just sitting here listening to my CB radio and the disgusting way they talk. . . . Some of the men and women are using very foul language and very suggestive phrases. If your family was in the car, Mr. CBer, would you want them to hear this?”
Not only that, but some even use CB to solicit for prostitution. “In some areas of the country,” reports Newsweek magazine, “the almost constant chatting of prostitutes and bootleggers is overwhelming ordinary folks who only want to strike up a conversation, report an accident or tell their families they’ll be late for dinner.”
With such degrading conversation and other material, as well as a lot of just plain useless talk, says one concerned operator, “the Citizens Band can be a mass of garbage, practically useless, especially around urban areas. All the blather and illegality are infuriating to serious C.B.ers.”—New York Times Magazine, April 25, 1976, p. 60.
Effect on People
CB abuses have also led to family problems, hard feelings with the neighbors, injury and even death. In two recent cases, one over a CBer’s use of foul language and another over monopolizing a channel, fights and two murders resulted. Some CBers have even formed vigilante-type groups to “clean up” the CB channels, but this often results in more havoc than help. The assistant police chief of Helena, Montana, tells about some who “took it on themselves to find” a person who was using foul language on the air. “A fight ensued, and it turned out it was the wrong man.”
“What is it about CB radio that makes grown adults act like children?” asks the CB columnist for the Easton, Pennsylvania, Express. “You hear them arguing and bickering, blustering and threatening each other over such trivial things as who’s used their handle [nickname] the longest or who’s got the ‘toughest’ radio in the neighborhood.” Some may ask: “Could part of the reason that many ‘grown adults act like children’ be that juvenile CB language, childish nicknames and immature purposes often predominate the Citizens Band, thereby creating a childish atmosphere?”
Another problem, TV interference, makes for angry neighbors. Even when a CB is transmitting at legal power, the transmission can sometimes cause television-picture distortion in nearby sets and possibly an unwanted voice over the speaker. “The CB TVI [television interference] problem is approaching wild-fire dimensions,” said CB Magazine. FCC officials estimated the number of complaints about interference in 1976 at as many as 150,000.
CB users may correctly argue that often it is the television receivers that are at fault for not having preventive circuits. However, as CB Magazine points out: “After all, until the CBer got his CB set, the neighbor’s equipment ‘worked just fine.’” The article also urges that CB users “begin to shoulder more of the responsibility for the problem.”
Certainly a Christian operating a CB set would not want to interfere with a neighbor’s electronic equipment, any more than he would want others to interfere with his own. Even though the deficiency may be in the neighbor’s TV set, a Christian would endeavor to solve any problem without asserting his “rights.” The principle from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount should govern: “If a person wants to go to court with you and get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him.”—Matt. 5:40; 7:12.
Another matter that Christian CB owners should consider is illustrated by a letter from a disturbed wife, who writes of her husband: “He is indulging now so much in it that he uses it at nighttime, after he closes up the business at 11:00 p.m.—until around 2:00 a.m. It causes great upset.” Would a Christian want to indulge himself in such a hobby to the extent that it interferes with proper family life, stealing time from more profitable pursuits, just so he can play?
Also, in view of the sound Biblical principle that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” can one say that because many of those who use CB equipment are not lawbreakers, foulmouthed and immoral, one is justified in spending a lot of time on the air with them for other than purposeful information? Would you pick up a telephone, dial any number at random, and associate with whoever answered?—1 Cor. 15:33.
It is worth while to consider the practical outlook of the Bible on this matter: “Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.” Hence, one would not want to become enslaved to one’s CB equipment any more than to a television set or to any pursuit that can squander valuable time.—1 Cor. 6:12, Today’s English Version (1976).
If a person has a CB radio for his personal or secular business—fine. But why not use it as a tool, not a toy? “If the individual CB user would be a little more polite, a little less talkative, not trying to hog the airways,” says the FCC’s head of CB operations, “it would make our problem less severe. You know, there’s a lot of people who don’t want to talk indiscriminately; ‘they have installed their units for a very specific purpose.” Certainly this is the view that a Christian would take.
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10-4 GOOD BUDDY
Do you think your hobby should harm your relations with your neighbors?
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Should your family life suffer over your conversations with strangers?