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Public Radio and pledge drives - Phil's Rambling Rants
April 20th, 2004
10:36 am

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Public Radio and pledge drives
Public radio is having another pledge drive this week, and I feel inspired to say a few things about it.

I really appreciate WILL. In addition to NPR's news coverage -- which isn't perfect, but is much better than any other American broadcast news -- WILL provides a lot of BBC coverage and some other foreign news programming as well, such as As It Happens from the CBC. They also have real local meteorologists and a bunch of other good features. Public radio in general is a good thing, and WILL is a very good public station.

For all that I like about public radio and WILL, there are things I don't like too, and at the top of the list is what they do on air to raise money. Every day, they have many paid commercials. They don't call it commercials, they call it acknowledging the underwriters, but I believe in calling a spade a spade, and when XYZ corporation gives them money because they want the listeners to hear that "thanks to XYZ corporation, world leaders in yada yada yada, where our motto is blahblahblah" several times a day, it's paid advertising. Every day, they also slip in comments about support from the listeners. But the pledge drives are the worst by far. Ten minutes or more out of every half hour, trying to find new variations on the same tired themes, pushing their 'challenges' ("so-and-so will give us an extra $X if we get Y more pledges before Z o'clock, so call now!" I really have to wonder if any of the contributors offering these so-called challenges ever really don't donate the money if they don't come through with the pledge), flogging their "thank you gifts" (what percentage of the money they get do they have to spend on packaging and postage for those gifts, to say nothing of the fact that someone is paying to have them made in the first place?), trying to make people feel guilty. They render the station nearly unlistenable for a week.

For years, I flatly refused to contribute to the station because I hate the pledge drives so much, and I'm a firm believer in not rewarding behavior I disapprove of. But as much as I don't want to support pledge drives, I do want to support the service, so a couple of years ago, I started contributing, pointedly *not* during a pledge drive, and specifically asking *not* to be put on a list or to have any stuff mailed to me. I think it's a good compromise, and I'd like to encourage everyone who feels the way I do to respond the same way.

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