The PBS Pledge Drive: Might there be a better way?

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Jack Briggs, Jun 1, 2003.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    It's that time again. PBS affiliates throughout the country are gearing up for the latest quarterly Pledge Drive. Certainly, the network deserves our support. Despite the fact that corporate commercials run routinely on this "viewer-supported" network, it still remains the provider of the most consistently excellent programming in all of broadcast television.

    Unfortunately, some PBS affiliates exploit the Pledge Drive more aggressively than others. The leading Los Angeles-area affiliate, KCET-Channel 28, is one of them.

    What is most annoying about how KCET handles the Pledge Drive is that it never really goes away. Despite taking full advantage of the sixteen weeks (four months!) maximum allocation per year, the station continues with its own "pledge drives" outside those timeframes.

    Even this would be more tolerable if not for the vapid, intelligence-insulting "special" programming KCET favors during these Drives: Your Money with Suze Orman is repeated ad nauseum each time, all two hours of it. Then there are the endless opportunities to learn more about painting stupid pictures of floral arrangements, courtesy of Donna Dewberry, finger-painter. And I forget the guru's name, but KCET always repeats the same mind-numbing two-hour presentations by a smooth-talking, New Age "self-realization" specialist—nothing but feel-good platitudes for 120 minutes.

    Some of the entertainment specials are passable, but how many times must KCET repeat The Three Tenors and those two-hour performances by doo-wop singers? And did I mention Yanni?

    At the very least, if such essential, regular prime-time PBS programming as Frontline, NOVA, and NOW with Bill Moyers must be interrupted for four weeks a stretch, why not broadcast vintage editions of these same programs during the Pledge Drives? They are, after all, the reason we turn to PBS in the first place.

    Additionally, KCET, whether it's Pledge Drive time or not, runs a series of slickly produced ads throughout the year, all of them begging for money (in one of them, an actor pretending to be auditioning for some sort of stage part screams, "They're not beg-athons!" as he begs you to send money).

    Again, PBS deserves our support. As a news venue, it is an indespensible alternative to the mindless, soundbite-driven corporate newscasts offered by the commercial broadcast networks. But these Pledge Drives are becoming increasingly shrill, longer, and off-putting.

    Surely there is a better way to do this.
     
  2. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    I feel a Simpsons quote coming on..........

    "If you watch even one second of PBS and don't contribute, you're a thief. A common thief!"
    -- Betty White, "Missionary: Impossible"


    [​IMG]
     
  3. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    I'd give more if they'd STOP showing Yanni, Cats, Three Tenors, and whatever shrill little monkey they've dredged up this year to sing opera
     
  4. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Well, it could be worse... It could be the auction.

    I always wonder why most PBS stations do this; I guess it's about getting money from people who otherwise aren't watching PBS much. It seems to have gotten worse in recent years; I think WENH (New Hampshire's PBS station) had the best plan a while ago - not many big drives, but whenever a new season of Doctor Who or Red Dwarf came in, they'd run a marathon with pledge breaks between episodes.
     
  5. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    They did that here with Red Dwarf Season 8. Unfortunately the programming director that was responsible for bringing RD back to our PBS station left 2 years later, and RD went with him
     
  6. Karl_Luph

    Karl_Luph Supporting Actor

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    I did see Rick Steves on today asking for contributions and his show is pretty informative. I do enjoy some of the WW2 history shows(the discovery of the lost U-boat was good) they have and of course the series they have of people living in the different time settings(I really learned alot from the 1940's British house series). So you're right, I should send them something, they will take small contributions if you can't afford enough for the various gift packages, right?
     
  7. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

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    Jack - at least they finally retired "The Miracle of Life" from the pledge drive rotation. During the 90's I think that ran non-stop during some pledge drives.

    -greg
     
  8. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    The PBS affilliate here in Fresno is a joke--their idea of good Saturday night programming is reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show from the 60s. They've just applied for yet another extension from the FCC so they can once again delay their digital broadcasting obligation.

    They aren't getting a dime from me.
     
  9. Karl_Luph

    Karl_Luph Supporting Actor

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    As an older person and a musician, I enjoy some of the great musical talent in the Lawrence Welk Orchestra especially on the swing arrangements.I don't care for alot of the variety stuff thrown in between, just the swing.Beleive it or not, he actually had some exceptional players.Not only could alot of them play an instrument quite well, some actually sang and danced pretty good. Plus some of the girls on the show were pretty good looking lol!5 years ago I probably wouldn't of cared for any of it, but as I grew as a musician I also grew to appreciate good music and talent, plus alot of it was done live so you would see and hear mistakes and this could add to the comedy factor.
     
  10. JamesMH

    JamesMH Stunt Coordinator

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    That silly Your Money with Suze Orman show is on a LOT.

    PBS and NPR should get more taxes, then they shouldn't have to do this. Aswell as combining the local PBS stations together, like a common network to reduce costs.
     
  11. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I could see the pledge drives back when their programming wasn't interrupted by commercials. But as it stands now, I fail to see any difference between PBS and the Big Four that would require pledge drives.

    As it is, any type of programming once exclusive to PBS can now be found on cable channels like HGTV, TLC, History Channel, and Discovery. Some affiliates sponser local programming for their areas; the local PBS here does not.
     
  12. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Ah, yes, the PBS pledge-drive.

    What was it a newspaper I saw some years ago had in an article on these? It was a photograph of one of the muppets (the Cookie Monster?) holding a sign that read:

    "PAY UP OR BE DUMB!"
     
  13. Roberto Carlo

    Roberto Carlo Second Unit

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  14. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Interesting observation; it's also notable that WGBH, the Boston station that supplies much of PBS's programming, just made its first non-PBS sale, to Discovery Kids.

    The other PBS feature that the specialty stations on cable can't replace is purely local programming. Most commercial stations produce a newscast, but with practically every hour of their schedule spoken for, few ever seem to do more than that.
     
  15. Michael St. Clair

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    I used to donate, but at this point I find the Discovery/History channels, plus BBC America, combined with a Tivo to zap commercials, far superior to PBS. Throw in more channels like IFC, Sundance, Bravo, Trio (West 54th, occasional classics like Ernie Kovacs...june is Uncensored Comedy month).

    Basically, there's a lot more cultural and educational TV on DBS and cable than on PBS. As far as I'm concerned, PBS is now largely a dinosaur, best serving the rural and the retired.
     
  16. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Not so.

    PBS is essential. NOW With Bill Moyers is especially needed in this age of media consolidation (and just about the only national program that has been following the FCC media-ownership story, which culminated in today's vote to ease restrictions on media cross-ownership, something the corporate commercial "newscasts" are loathe to cover).

    NOVA, after more than thirty years, remains the pinnacle of science programming on television (don't even mention The Discovery Channel in the same breath). And Frontline is the only serious news-documentary program in existence, carrying on a tradition long abandoned by the corporate commercial networks (remember CBS Reports? You ain't gonna see the likes of that on the commercial networks ever again).

    Here, locally, where the "local broadcast news" is nothing more than Entertainment Tonight with the weather and sports thrown in, KCET-Channel 28 offers the only English-language evening survey of genuine issues affecting Los Angeles County as well as the state, Life and Times. And preceding Frontline on Thursday evenings, KCET airs the excellent California Connected, an hourlong mix of news segments and discussion panels focusing on California issues of import.

    Despite the corporate pitches at the beginning of several programs, PBS is the only network that doesn't ooze commerce at the expense of content.

    As I said, it deserves our support. What I take issue with is the mediocrity of the "special programming" during the ubiquitous Pledge Drives, as well as certain affiliates who go above and beyond the Pledge Drives in their pursuit of donations. I am asking if there might be viable alternatives to this approach.
     
  17. BillyH

    BillyH Stunt Coordinator

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    I gott'a agree with the idea of yanking all public funding for PBS. Sink or swim, survival of the fittest, whatever. Sure in the good ol' days PBS was a programing lifesaver in a deep dark sea of rubish, but those days are gone. As already pointed out, quality material is amply availabe elsewhere.(And notably,, they seem to support themselves very nicely, thankyou) This nation is 7 trillion bucks in debt with another 14 tril promised in entitlements to baby bommers like me(That we will proably never see.) and something has got to go. If it has to start with the arts, then so be it. If enough people want somethjing, then someone will provide it for them as long as they are willing to pay the toll to travel a road of thier choosing. Some will say that there are all sorts of other less deserving area to cut, and I agree with that, but this argument is just used as a stalling tatic. In the end, nothing ever gets cut, and the beurocracy grows and grows. It has got to start somewhere people. Does anyone out there want to pay more in taxes just to keep Big Bird and Elmo alive(At least on PBS)?
     
  18. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    To which I disagree vehemently. See post #16 above.

    So, sacrifice art in favor of commerce? Don't we have enough of this mentality already? Hasn't the commercial motive itself become oppressive? We need a viable alternative to the profit-driven mentality that's choking the life out of creativity. And we need serious programming that feeds the mind instead of just a network's coffers.
     
  19. Michael St. Clair

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  20. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    If commerce means people aren't forced to pay for programming they don't like, I'm all for it.
     

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