PBS to Run Commercials Online, including at PBS Kids site. Doesn’t it know there soon won’t be a real difference between the Web and TV?
PBS intends to run online advertising this fall at its PBS.org website. The so-called non-commercial network says it seeks to benefit from the “explosive growth and rising demand” of interactive advertising. In an example of how out of touch PBS executives are with its non-commercial mandate, a PBS VP explained that the move is a response to the demand of the market. He said that such ads would generate “positive financial results” for the network, helping it fulfill its “mission-based activities.” They claim there will be “guidelines” helping determine what ads can run. But an ad’s an ad. Incredibly, PBS will also seeks advertising for its kids website homepages—PBSkids.org and PBSkids Go!
PBS should not be seeking commercial opportunities in the broadband market. Instead, it should be pioneering new forms of non-commercial content readily available throughout our ubiquitous digital system. PBS must recognize by now that online and TV (as well as mobile) are merging. The distinction about whether content is delivered via any specific platform no longer matters. Whether received via TV, cellphone, or PC, public broadcasting content should be fully non-commercial. PBS, and its stations, (and NPR) should not attempt to replicate what commercial media companies are doing online and with mobile networks. It will be a U.S. media universe saturated with advertising. If PBS is to remain distinctive at all—it has to strictly adhere to non-commercial formats in all forms of distribution. Certainly, new PBS president Paula Kerger can do better than this. PBS officials think they have a loophole because they aren’t prohibited from running ads online (they are restricted in terms of commercials and their TV licenses). Congress must step in to bar PBS from running any ads—in any medium.
[source: “PBS to resume Online Ads to Exploit Market Demand.” Dinesh Kumar. Communications Daily. Aug. 24, 2006. Subscription only].
PS: In response to those who say that PBS needs money, so hence it must run online ads. In my view, only by creating meaningful interactive non-commercial formats can PBS hope to raise money from viewers/users. Its future is with the audience increasingly using social media web sites. It has to provide those users with distinctive content. A fully non-commercial service is likely to be appreciated with viewer support. Foundations might like it too.
PPS: Read the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childrhood’s alert on PBS ads here.
And Commercial Alert’s here.
PPPS!: See a good overview article on PBS’s deal with Google’s Adsense service. The piece includes an interview with PBS’s VP for Interactive and Education. It’s at paidcontent.org and called “PBS.org Starts Accepting Contextual Ads From Google; More Coming.” See another piece about the PBS station in Cincinnati that has “re-launched its web presence as an ad-supported on-demand video site.”