Public service is ostensibly the major reason that most corporate underwriters fund public television programs. But the fact is that their own selectivity in funding indicates that they expect to be identified with the programs they choose to invest in. And, in actuality, viewer identification of the program with the underwriter is often forthcoming.
Probably the most recognizable sponsor-funder connection for most radio listeners, as well as TV viewers, is that of Texaco, which has underwritten Metropolitan Opera performances for many years. Mobil Corporation's underwriting of ''Masterpiece Theatre'' also rates near the top in viewer awareness, as does Exxon's funding of ''Great Performances.''
Since the list below is based on the PBS 1984 fiscal year, it does not reflect some major changes for the current season.
For instance, General Electric, which for several years underwrote ''Inside Story,'' has this season dropped out as a funder, causing the show to disappear from PBS, at least temporarily. Chubb, which last year funded the Vietnam series , has this year decided to underwrite ''American Playhouse.''
Here are last season's top corporate and corporate foundation funders on PBS. See if you can match the underwriter to the program: Funders A: AT&T. B: Atlantic Richfield/Arco Foundation. C: Chevron USA. D: Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. E: Exxon Corporation. F: Ford Motor Compay/Ford Aerospace. G: General Electric Corporation. H: Gulf Oil Corporation. I: Mobil Corporation. J: Texaco Philanthropic Foundation Inc. Shows 1. ''American Playhouse/ Vietnam: A Television History.'' 2. ''MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.'' 3. ''Washington Week in Review.'' 4. ''Masterpiece Theatre''/''Mystery!'' 5. ''Inside Story'' 6. ''Strokes of Genius.'' 7. ''Great Performances.'' 8. National Geographic Specials. 9. ''Live From the Met.'' 10. ''A Walk Through the 20th Century with Bill Moyers.'' Answers to PBS underwriters quiz:
1:D; 2:A; 3:F; 4:I; 5:G; 6:B; 7:E; 8:H; 9:J; 10:C.