In late April, PBS began adding 15 to 30 second "sponsorship" messages to online presentations of major programs — everything from "Masterpiece" to "Frontline." Investment giant Goldman Sachs is the most prominent sponsor so far. "That firm clearly has a right to present a basically 'goodwill' message," writes PBS ombud Michael Getler
, "and if I were in that firm I would see how it might help its damaged image - among non-employees - to be associated with PBS. But to some viewers, it has apparently added insult to injury." Here's what they're saying:
I have to admit that I wasn't exactly surprised to have my "Upstairs, Downstairs" program interrupted with an advertisement, but Goldman Sachs?!!? Really? I suppose if you're going to sell out you might as well go straight to the devil. Pathetic.
Why is PBS interrupting programming to show commercials, and why are these commercials for Goldman Sachs? Goldman Sachs nearly brought down the world economy; I find commercials from them in the middle of PBS programming most distasteful.
A PBS Interactive exec tells Getler that this new revenue stream is needed because PBS has become, in a sense, "a victim of our own success," going from two million to 115 million online video views monthly. The exec notes that there are more than 1,000 hours of full length video available for free on PBS.org and that "dwarfs anything anyone else has done."
* "When the Facts of PBS Life Collide" [PBS.org]