PBS’s New Plan: More Intrusive Ads

The public broadcasting newspaper Current (5/18/11) reports that public television–you know, the non-commercial outlet–will start airing more commercials:

The move could be controversial for the network, which has traditionally prided itself on offering uninterrupted programming over its 40-year history.

PBS will begin breaking into programs with underwriting and promo spots four times per hour on an experimental basis beginning this fall, it told station members at the PBS National Meeting here.

PBS corporate communicationsofficial Anne Bentley issued a response that actually begins, “We are always looking at ways to improve the viewer experience.” It goes on to say that “It is all about the viewer,” and–perhaps most bizarrely–claims, “Initial testing showed that viewers didn’t really notice the change.” Really? People didn’t notice a commercial in the middle of a PBS show?

In other PBS news, some stations are apparently considering leaving PBS altogether, according to a report in the New York Times (5/22/11). The main complaint seems to be about money–the stations think they’re paying too much to air the national programming.

There is, of course, a possible silver lining in all of this. One could imagine public TV stations breaking free from PBS and seeking out more independent programming to fill out their schedules. (Democracy Now! instead of the NewsHour— how does that sound?). It’s a long shot, perhaps, but one can at least imagine a brighter future for public television stations that doesn’t necessarily involve airing the conventional PBS programming.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.