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Pledge Drive Programming

Monday, February 11th, 2008
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Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President

Well, I asked for your feedback …

A few of you have asked about our pledge drives…both how and why we do them. The “why” is pretty simple and you probably know the answer: funding. Before I took this job, I thought much of the station’s revenue came from tax dollars. But the reality is that we get about ten percent of our budget from the federal government and we have to raise the rest from corporations, foundations, philanthropists…and yes, viewers like you.

That’s why we pledge, but it doesn’t mean we have to do pledge the same way all the time.

Thirteen has been one of public television’s innovators in finding new ways to do pledge. Since I got here, I’ve had lots of brainstorming meetings about it. I’d like to find more ways to take advantage of the fact that we’re located in New York City, to bring in interesting great guests and to make our breaks more informational and less intrusive.

Marc Chelmer, a viewer, suggests that we run classic PBS programming during pledge instead of the programs we currently offer. I talked to Hilary Vlachos who oversees pledge. She says she’s mindful of balancing our pledge schedule with core programs such as The Forsythe Saga, The Three Tenors and others, but it’s a real challenge because it’s so expensive to get the rights to rebroadcast many of our old favorites.

I’ve also heard from several viewers who love the music we play during pledge drives and this should be no surprise. There is a wide variety of opinions about which kinds of music they prefer. That’s another challenge for us.

Meanwhile, keep the comments coming!

  • Wang Wei

    Dear Mr. Neal Shapiro,

    This is Wang Wei, a fellow of Knight Fellowship for Journalist at Stanford University (my bio is on line, http://knight.stanford.edu/fellows/index.html). I’d like to talk with you on some professinal topics. Could you give me your email address? I look forward to hearing from you.

    Wang Wei

  • Gene Aronowitz

    It doesn’t follow that public broadcasting must use any of their programming time to fundraise. I can understand why it’s desirable; all nonprofit organizations would love to have that kind of access to their supporters and to the public but they don’t. Any other nonprofit that stopped providing services or significantly curtailed services several weeks a year to raise funds, would have a difficult time convincing the public that their service is needed and that support is warranted. It is true that public broadcasting cannot charge admission or get fees for services as museums, orchestras and hospitals do. But many nonprofit organizations are not able to charge for the services they provide, particularly when their clients are too poor to pay. Consequently, they supplement any government support they can get with foundation grants, mailings and email solicitations, person to person contact, and with fundraising events such as runs, walks, house parties and dinner-dances. Public broadcasting could do the same if it wished, thus avoiding those often interminable, boring, and irritating lapses in service.

  • Kevin

    Spot-on, Gene.

    While those who watch doo-wop-a-thons and guru infomercials may be suckered easily, not all of PBS’s core viewers will take for granted that the current fundraising approach is the only alternative.

    And the more PBS intrudes on their time, the more the viewers should wonder what they’re paying for.

    But for now, stations are too comfortable with the current methods, which seem to be a growing addiction. Now we’re seeing fund-raisers every weekend, as opposed to just quarterly, at Xmas time, etc.

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