Synopsis of "TV's Foolish PSA Wrangle"

In an Editorial published on May 19, 1997, Advertising Age magazine criticizes broadcasters who have balked request to devote 60 seconds a night to old fashioned public service announcements. The request came from the Advertising Council and others who want stations to air PSAs that focus on inspiring help for inner-city kids.

Broadcasters claim they air public service-type messages from paying advertisers and use their own on-air promotions featuring network TV stars. The editorial accuses the networks of promoting their own shows while claiming credit for "public service." Even though network on-air promos have climbed to 12 minutes a night during prime-time, the amount devoted to old fashioned PSAs has dropped to less than 30 prime-time seconds a night.

The editorial warns that broadcasters have picked a ridiculous fight which will win them no friends in Congress. This matters because the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is intensely lobbying Washington to avoid having a family viewing hour established, to avoid giving away free time to political candidates, and to maintian control of its old analog spectrum as well as the public-funded new multi-billion dollar digital spectrum.

The editorial questions how NAB can thumb its nose at the request to run traditional, non-marketing driven PSAs, when it is clear that what networks call "public service" ads are self-serving promotions. The magazine warns that broadcasters are jeopardizing their entire future, just to aviod 60 seconds of charity.