Should NPR trash its fundraisers?

John Shirley’s on a rant about public broadcasting fundraisers:

Anyway, there has to be a better way for NPR and KQED and the like to raise money than BADGERING people, and adopting that chummy, we’re all pals tone, hectoring, ever-so-pleasantly hectoring, ever-so-amusingly haranguing…and haranguing. Putting on their best programming during their hectoring, haranguing periods. Interrupting it for more hectoring and haranguing. They guilt trip you– subtly, but that’s what they do. They make you feel like it’s your responsibility to raise the money for their salaries.

I agree, it’s annoying. Yes, it makes me feel guilty — and I don’t know about KQED, but our local NPR station here in Charlotte ain’t too subtle about it either. But reading Shirley’s outraged words, I begin to wonder whether he’s ever listened to regular radio. You can’t find the programming for all the commercials. Shirley suggests that NPR might want to consider running more commercials instead of their four-times-a-year pledge drives. I suggest Shirley listen to a Clear Channel outlet for a few hours and then reconsider his suggestion. Yes, NPR does have “commercials” now, but in my view, they’ve struck an excellent balance between the amount of time they spend earning money and the amount of time they devote to actual programming.

Shirley’s other outrage stems from the public TV practice of “charging” artists to air their documentaries. I appreciate the information (apparently Shirley’s working on a documentary and is frustrated with the process of getting it broadcast), but I don’t see how it’s the cardinal sin Shirley seems to think it is. It costs money to air programming; the public TV stations are simply asking artists to share in the burden for raising funds. The artists have an interest in their work being seen, so they are motivated fundraisers. Shirley suggests that commercial networks have a better model because “THEY pay THE ARTISTS.” If the commercial networks are so great, why aren’t we seeing the same high quality programming there that we find every day on public TV?

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3 Responses to Should NPR trash its fundraisers?

  1. john shirley says:

    Dave, I’m not working on a doc about public tv, it’s about
    spirituality. . .I know, Clearchannel etc is bad stuff, but NPR could compromise,
    having some ads, now and then. The main point was that their moneyraising method now
    just doesn’t cut it and they should think of something else. What is up to them.

  2. john shirley says:

    Also I didn’t say commrcial networks were superior, I said at least they
    did *that* right: they pay the artists.

    [John–I edited that comment out. I’m putting my response here so people realize that your comment was indeed relevant when it was made.]

  3. Dave says:

    John,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding about your documentary. I’ll fix it as soon as I’m done with this reply. The financing of public TV actually *would* make an interesting documentary, though! Maybe it’ll be your next project?

    I’d be interested to know how many documentary filmmakers actually make money at it. Sure you get paid for making a quickie biography of Tony Randall, but what about serious documentary filmmaking?

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