Sunday, June 1, 2014

PBS wants me to flip my phone open

The television was on for “warmth,” tuned to PBS. I was startled to hear someone encourage viewers to “flip the phone open” and make a pledge. Yes, it’s pledge week on my PBS station. Tonight’s offering, Ed Sullivan’s Rock and Roll Classics, first aired in 2009. The pledge breaks are from 2009 as well. Thus the flip phone.

There’s something unseemly about a PBS station seeking to pull in viewers (and money) by running decades-old clips from a commercial variety show — and running those clips again and again. What would move me to give more money to PBS? Oh, say, a reprise of one or more Frontline episodes. Or an hour or two of the wonderful operas from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Or an episode or two of the great forgotten series Soul! — especially this one with Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

But as Kirk put it in his Soul! appearance, “People don’t even want us on television.” And now, not even on PBS. Gotta make more room for the Dave Clark Five and Yanni. They’re coming later this week too, again.

[I have no idea what airing an old PBS show might require in the way of permissions. But I doubt that such material is missing from pledge week because of such complications. By the way, the breaks on many PBS pledge-week programs now come from some mothership, not from the local station. And, yes, many people happily use flip phones in 2014. But the exhortation to “flip the phone open” now sounds rather dated.]

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