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PBS ad experiment produces money; early response mixed

If you haven't tried it, don't knock it.

At the recent annual convention of the Public Broadcasting Service, that was the unspoken attitude of several PBS television station operators concerning the ongoing experimental use of commercial advertising. A New Orleans station, WYES, is especially happy with advertising results. The station estimates that raising revenue this way could generate about $80,000 annually.

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Not all 10 stations approved for the experiment, which was authorized by Congress in January, have started the pilot project. But among those which have (Muncie, Ind.; Chicago; New York; and San Mateo, Calif.) there were mixed responses to the idea. Some negative reactions, operators said, came from other public broadcasting stations; and some minor comments came from public viewers.

Most station managers and executives felt the experiment should not be judged too closely until its completion in mid-1983. Most also agreed that - whatever the outcome - if funds are to be raised in this manner, they should only be used for supplemental income. The experiment was begun to help cushion the fiscal 1983 cutback from $172 million to $137 million in federal funding for PBS.

The most forceful critic of commercial advertising in public telecommunication outlets is Edward Pfister, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In a June speech he denounced the idea, saying, ''(such advertising) would change the nature of what we are . . . of what we do . . . . '' Critics who agree with Mr. Pfister claim commercial acceptance of advertising funds could influence the quality, length, and style of much material used by public-broadcasting outlets.

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