IN MY OPINION
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12 March 2007
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Strange things happen when you fall asleep at night with the television on. You wake up in the middle of the night with strange things running through your head.
Somewhere around 1 a.m., it was "John Denver: a Song's Best Friend" or something like that. If they're running old John Denver videos followed by an Elvis Presley retrospective and advertising an upcoming "Doo-Wop" tribute, it can mean only one thing: it's time for a pledge drive on the local PBS station.
I don't remember when Public Television got its start. It had to have been after 1953 because we didn't get our first television until 1953. I remember the day my father was all excited because there was this new thing that we were going to be able to see. It was called "public television" and they were going to have intellectual things like symphony concerts and school classes you could take, and all without commercials.
I'm not sure why he was so excited about it because PBS fare was definitely not his interest, but he felt that it was going to stretch our intellects, I guess. When KQED in San Francisco started broadcasting, we watched.
Many years later I was as excited about a new program called Sesame Street, specifically designed for little kids, as my father had been about this thing called "public television." It was going to have puppets and film and was designed especially for small children. Jeri was a toddler at the time and we rushed home so she could see the film about how a cow gives milk. (I didn't realize at the time that the film would be repeated endlessly for years and years to come!)
We have always belonged to public television and I sometimes get angry about that when pledge week comes around. Because we're members, we miss out on all those neat pledge drive gifts to new members.
Nooooo....nothing for the loyal following; it's all for the new guys.
(Of course the great gift for the new guys tonight was a John Denver CD for a $50 pledge. You can buy the same CD on Amazon for about $10. It seems to me that in the early years, the pledge gifts were "one of a kind" items that were unique to the particular TV station, and not available for purchase elsewhere.)
But it's not about the gift--it's about supporting public television and keeping "this kind of programming" alive.
I do question the necessity of public television any more, though, with all the programming that is available on cable channels these days. My Berkeley 60s mentality won't let me talk against public television, but the whole point initially was that it was commercial-free broadcasting. Now with all the "this program sponsored by...." segments before each program, we seem to see more advertising on "commercial-free broadcasting" than we do on the networks.
You can get those lovely British dramas that we used to see only on PBS by watching BBC-America and with so many 24-hour news programs and talking heads, is there any necessity for the kind of news coverage that used to be unique to PBS.
But I don't think anybody else is running Doo-Wop retrospectives, or old Perry Como specials, or John Denver tributes, so PBS does have its uses.
Initially public television was sponsored through a pledge week a year. Now it seems we get a pledge week a month, at least in this market. At one point, KQED in San Francisco bribed its subscribers. If they got enough pledges, they wouldn't have a pledge week. And I think that worked for a few years, but now KQED is back having its regular pledge weeks too.
(What would Rick Steeves do without pledge week?)
Walt and I have even worked pledge drives here in Sacramento, with the Davis Comic Opera Co., manning the telephones for a few hours and taking calls from new subscribers.
There are times when I get very tired of the seemingly endless pledge weeks, but other times when I enjoy the opportunity to see performers, long dead, in their glory days (especially when they run an old Judy Garland show).
...John Denver continues to warble. When I look back over my life, I guess I have pretty much pledged most of it to public television!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is entry #2538