PPROXIMATELY ONCE every 37 seconds, a public television viewer dies, just a little, from overexposure to pledge drives. For you younger ones, constant program interruptions may seem the norm. But, once upon a time, pledge drives were a rare event, and no viewers were lost to PBS's quaint, polite pleas for maybe $30 a year, if you could possibly spare it. For your generosity, you were sent a little plastic mug with the words "Educational T.V." scrawled on it in crayon by a thankful child, whose name was never Britney or Justin.
Perhaps the folks at PBS have lost touch with their viewership. Alternatively, perhaps they have lost touch with reality. For example, and there are so many examples, people who watch PBS are not the same people who rent Yanni dvd's. This fact has been proved repeatedly in robust studies conducted by the Consortium to Research the Bleeding Obvious.
Breaking from their usual research role, CRBO has published a list of counter measures to stem the downright rampant tide of pledge drives, which, with their terrifying programming choices, threaten to undermine our peaceful society, or at least to make it want to, like, barf. Hundreds of signatories already have jumped on board, including the prestigious League to Deprive the Lennon Sisters of Air Time; and the blossoming Citizens Against Suze Orman, and Also the Dumb Spelling of Her Otherwise Perfectly Good First Name.
Many thanks to CRBO for permission to reprint their recommendations in full.
"We, the Consortium to Research the Bleeding Obvious, feel a compelling responsibility to make ourselves heard, as scientists and as ordinary citizens (even though we know full well we are hardly ordinary, but have to say so because people expect it).
CRBO has documentedusing fabulously sophisticated computer statistical software that would boggle the mind of the truly ordinary citizenPublic Television's airing of an ever-increasing number of pledge drives per year. We estimate, for example, a 300-percent increase in pledge drives from 2000 to 2004. At this rate, by 2015 households in the U.S. will be subjected to a new pledge drive every other day. CRBO hardly needs to point out that, aside from the (bleeding) obvious programming disruptions involved, the higher levels of exposure to Daniel O'Donnell, Suze Orman, Wayne Dyer, and, of course, Yanni are a public-health threat that no ethical society can or should tolerate.
Therefore, we propose the following alternatives, in the hopes that the executives at Public Television will at least consider our less deleterious means of collecting revenue from its weary, dwindling viewership.
1. Suspend all pledge drives for a test period. Say, eternity. Or,
2. Remember that you are one of the most critical standard bearers of your culture. As you go off kilter, so follow many of your viewers. For example, airing anything to do with Yanni, except a video tape loop of his leaving the stage (and items 4 and 6), should be naturally repugnant to you. Promise never to do such a silly thing again.
3. Viewers who do not follow will, or have already, left. Tempt them back with irresistable programming, such as full and repeated reruns of To the Manor Born, Upstairs Downstairs, and Suze Orman Gets Her Hair Pulled Out By Wayne Dyer
4. Instead of pawning off mundane items like mugs, t-shirts, and dvd's of questionable value, try fewer pledge drives that offer higher-value premiums, such as discount tickets to Disney World, Yellowstone, or front-row seats to The Wayne Dyer and Suze Orman Take-a-Hammer-to-Yanni's-Piano Concert Against AIDS (sponsorship level).
5. Capitalizing on the '70s retro fad, hold one pledge drive per year in which you play only reruns of drives taped in the '70s. Allow viewers thus to laugh heartily at your colleagues' ghastly clothes and hair styles. Encourage viewers to donate at '70s pledge levels, which will strike them as sweet and nostalgic and pull at their heart strings. Even we at CRBO are getting all dewy eyed just thinking about those bygone, innocent days of fuzzy sideburns and Quiana shirts with permanent underarm stains.
6. Place Suze Orman, Daniel O'Donnell, Wayne Dyer, and Yanni each in their own dunking chair, and encourage viewers to direct a minimum $50 pledge to whomever they would like to see dropped in a tank of fairly clean water. Ensure your viewers that a legally binding contract exists per dunkee that will remove him or her permanently from your programming schedule the second a particular dollar amount in total pledges has been reached. CRBO assures you that you can practically name your price. Throw a couple of cute little piranas in Yanni's tank, and your pledge drive days are over.
So you see, PBS, sometimes a less-than-imaginative corporation, which pays its CEO about $550,000 per year more than he is worthnow there's another ideajust needs the cobwebs of habit cleared away by the feather duster of brilliance and innovation. We are more than pleased to be of service."
© 2004 Kate Heidel