PBS responds to story about program interruptions

Romenesko Misc.
Dru Sefton recently reported that PBS will break into programs with underwriting and promo spots four times per hour on an experimental basis beginning this fall. PBS corporate communications veep Anne Bentley sent this statement after I posted Sefton’s story:

We are always looking at ways to improve the viewer experience. In line with that, we’ve done research and one of the things that we’re going to try is to come up with is a way to develop better flow between shows. It is all about the viewer and how the viewer gets an opportunity to see our shows.

Our intention is to test it out with a single night and see how that goes. Depending on what we learn, we’ll see where we go from there.

We’ve done some preliminary testing, but we intend to do more before we move forward absolutely.

Initial testing showed that viewers didn’t really notice the change, but we want to do additional testing. As we move forward, we’ll be monitoring it closely.

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  • Anonymous

    The sole benefit of PBS programming is that We the People pay for it’s programming, either through direct donations or through a portion of our taxes.  This enables PBS to provide programming that is virtually free of commercial interferences, such that found by Fox News when two reporters tried to write a report on growth hormone in 1996 (www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1998Q2/foxbgh.html).  If PBS is getting money from Peabody Coal, Exxon Mobile, Monsanto, U.S. auto manufacturers, U.S. pharmaceuticals, etc….. who is going to provide critical analysis of the effects of these products on us and our world? The answer is simple: no one. “If you criticize us, we’ll pull our funding,” which is a nice segway into corporate censoring of programming.  News will become biased, and their documentaries will become less accurate.

    As a supporter of WGBH, I will discontinue offering donations for their programming.  Did they measure the loss in donations as a result of these commercials?

  • Anonymous

    Oh please.  Your desire is to improve the “viewer experience”.  Let’s get real, Your goal is to add “commercials” which bring in “revenue.” It’s not “all about the viewer.”  It’s all aboout giving the advertiser the oppotunity to reach the viewer. What’s astonishing to me is not that PBS is seeking advertisers, but that PBS is saying — with a straight face — that this is not about advertising.  When will this dissembling stop?

  • http://www.jt10000.com John Forrest Tomlinson

    Good points.  One of the few examples of television advertising I really liked was in soccer games (which last 90 minutes or more) where with about 30 minutes to do the announcers would say “The remainder of this game is brought to you without commercial interruption by X company.”  And I’d appreciate that a lot – gives a positive impression of the company.  But that sort of thing probably only works for programming where the viewer is really hooked to watch all the way through.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/QXHUG6B22T6CKA3CRQ4EG3UOCM Laurence

    One of the problems with even good commercial television (eg, right now I’m enjoying the new series of “How the States Got Ther Shapes” on History) is the fact that advertising requirements prevent uninterrupted long-form programming, which then results in the widespread probem of the “short attention span”.  An anecdote:  before my girl friend got cable, I would record some shows from History, Discovery and others on VHS tapes, and later she said she was too exasperated by the interruptions to fast-forward so often and just didn’t watch them.  If even PBS has to bring a serious discussion or presentation of a story to a halt for a Koch Brothers-sponsored “message” (yes, an ad), its viewers could have their thought-processes brought to a full-stop (but their bladders emptied though; not a bad thing considering the age group of the average PBS  audience member).

  • Anonymous

    Horsefeathers!  These are ads plain and simple. It’s just more evidence that PBS isn’t what it claims to be.

  • http://twitter.com/FlaFan FlaFan

    Trust me, when a network has gotten part of its positive reputation for not interrupting program and then decides to do so, even on a test basis, we’ll notice.

  • Christopher Yasiejko

    My greatest beef with PBS is the games it plays with language. This is not “underwriting.” These are not “promos.”

    These are, plain and simple, commercials. And all of the claims otherwise, fueled by a notion that PBS is commercial-free, are disingenuous.