PBS Pledge-Time Programming (Not a Rant)

Before I pen a letter to my local PBS affiliate questioning their baffling line of pledge-time shows, I thought I might test the waters here and see if there’s some very obvious reasoning I’m just missing out on.

Every time pledge-time comes around I see the same three bizarre choices of programming on KTCA (Twin Cities Public TV):

  1. Various Lawrence Welk stuff.

  2. “The Art of Blenko Glass,” a documentary about a glass-making company in West Virginia.

  3. Seminar shows/infomercials: Suze Orman, Haley’s Hints, Dr. Wayne Dyer

My serious question is this: does the broadcasting of these three specific programs result in higher-than-normal donations to PBS? I would find it easier to understand if, for example, our local Twin Cities PBS station aired a documentary about Minnesota history or Twin Cities cultural stuff. But an in-depth, hour-long show about a West Virginia glass company? I truly don’t understand. Ditto for Lawrence Welk and the infomercials; I just don’t see people tuning in for this kind of programming. Yet time and time again this is what I see come pledge-time.

Do you folks in other parts of the US experience this strangeness? Does somebody have an insight to PBS programming decisions that might explain it to me?


Here in Sacramento, we’re going thorough a pledge drive now, and, as a result, have been subjected to Liberace and Dinah Shore.

Years ago, the PBS station in my area aired a Red Dwarf marathon during the pledge drive. But that’s just about the only decent thing I’ve seen during the infamous pledge weeks. I’m not sure if it’s only the station I watch or not, but sometimes they have a “winter auction”, which has even less content than the pledges.

I’d guess it’s a matter of local demographics, plus PBS skews an older demographic (hence the glass-blowing and whatnot). The Lawrence Welk thing is probably restricted to the upper Midwest, I’d venture to say. The only time I ever encountered that show on the air was when visiting family in the northern reaches of MN, where the folks go batty for a good polka.

mr welk is in here in philly as well. i’m waiting for them to end the welk thing and get to the simon and garf. central park concert.

i remember a bit ago they had a 24 hour monty python thing, at 3 am i gave in and pledged and got a ministry of silly walks tee shirt.


We NEVER see Lawrence Welk on PBS here in Bah-stahn. Mobs would storm the station. Pledge week actually has pretty decent stuff, just broken up in itty bitty pieces with long boring pledge sections in between. I can’t think of any specifics right now, but Simon and Garfunkle would sound about right. Also Peter Paul and Mary, Nature, Nova, This Old House. More or less the usual. During the holidays they show a lot of Andre Rieu. I’ve never seen the glass blowing documentary BTW.

I have noticed, and deplore, the PBS trend toward more infomercial/seminar type stuff during the day, and it does seem to pop up around pledge time. I like Christiane Northrup and whatshername LaRouche, but the rest of them seem like New Age scam artists.

The Connecticut PBS station just did an almost-all-Lawrence Welk (Gack!) Saturday for their pledge drive. Where’s My This Old House? Oh, the humanity! :smiley:

Actually, Lawrence Welk skews heavily towards older, wealthier, and “patriotic”. On the eve of a war, what better to get those folks to send in money?

It’s hit-or-miss. Sometimes it’s good programming like Frontier House or Jazz. Lately they’ve been broadcasting American Soundtrack (which is entertaining, even though watching white Babyboomers dancing to Motown leaves much to be desired).

Here in Hollywood, we get Blenko but don’t get Welk.

Jeez, it’d be great if, during pledge-time–which is fast becoming 24/7–PBS pulled some stuff outta their vaults like The Singing Detective or Bruce Jay Friedman’s Steambath.

I did find out how to make a cheap carpet-cleaner from Haley’s Hints, though.

Are the pledge drives at the same time every year? It really annoys me that the Washington Post’s TV supplement never bothers to warn viewers when a begathon starts.

Actually, there is a warning, Neidhart, if you have the luck to catch it. PBS programs these “specials” in 2 or 3 hour blocks, something they never do for regular programming. Therefore, if you’re reading the TV guide, and a 3 hour show on PBS is followed by another 3 hour show, run for cover.

When I lived in Phoenix, IIRC, they had a lot of Brit Coms on during Pledge Drives. Molly Sugden even made an appearance!
I opened my wallet for that - anyone claiming to “have a pussy of great antiquity” deserves my dollars!! LOL

I almost started a thread about WHYY here in Philly. I was all set to watch “Battlefield” at 10 on Friday and instead they had Suze Orman. And then today (Sunday) they substituted some trash for the McLaughlin Group. Ugh. This doesn’t inspire me to reach for my credit card.

originally posted by Governor Quinn

Mostly I don’t watch PBS, but last week WETA had a special on the history of Silver Spring. I thought it looked interesting, and figured it would be good and detailed since it was 3 hours. Of course, it turned out to be 20 minutes of program followed by 20 minutes of blather over ringing telephones. :frowning:

Halfway through the second break, my mother switched to Dateline NBC; by the time that was over, I had missed a good 15 minutes of the film.

I know what you mean, Torgo. I looked in the TV guide last night and saw that Suze Orman was on Channel 2 instead of Red Green, and I thought, “Oh, it must be pledge week!” I was right.

I think that Lawrence Welk is region-specific. The guy was from North Dakota, and I happen to know that some of his family lives around the Twin Cities (I went to high school with his granddaughter.) He’s got a local appeal, especially to old folks. My father’s parents love the guy. Too bad for TPT that they’re in Arizona right now.

I think that PBS makes a few “just for pledge week” specials each year. The Mollie Sugden special, which mishaa mentioned, comes to mind. I’m guessing that the Blenko special is one of those. Maybe the pickings were slim this year for PBS.

I’m as baffled as the OP. If Suze Orman brings out the membership dollars, then why not show her all the time? If she doesn’t, then why show her so often for pledge week?

I once taped a really good Radiohead concert off of my PBS station during pledge week. :cool:

But that was the exception, and not the rule. Suze Orman seems to dominate.

KCTS in Seattle has had Red Dwarf and Are You Being Served? marathons (with visiting cast members), and a great doo-wop show as well. WTVS in Detroit is also on cable here, and seems to run the same kind of thing. I don’t watch much TV other than movies these days, so I don’t know if that’s changed lately.

(Red Dwarf and the doo-wop special got my money those times.)

Our PBS does show Rick Steve’s travel show marathons during pledge drives, which they don’t show any other time. So that’s nice. OTOH, they don’t show my This Old House or Nova, so that’s bad.

Which is why they keep hyping a DVD or VHS of whatever they’re showing. No 20 minutes of blather over ringing telephones and you’ll get to see anything you missed while channel-surfing!

Think March, August and December.
Those are the times PBS national plans for local stations to pledge.
I know one pledge vehicle that’s washed out so far nationally has been the Perricone lectures.