Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's a symptom...

Because I inadvertently -- or at least ignorantly -- agreed to some some Facebook game or other where people that I don't know try to enlist me in melodramatic letter-writing campaigns that usually demonstrate some symptom of our national Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I get these things.
A "Rob" proffered this careless confession -- which is passionate, so we must forgive his mistakes -- via the Independent Book Sellers Bulletin. I furnish it here completely until the part where I get sick of it:

While heading to the book shop I was listening to my favorite NPR station, I was stunned to hear a promotion of Amazon.com. It appears as though community public radio stations across the nation are doing this as a means of "fund raising" and that Amazon is an "underwriter." I know an advertisement when I hear one, and this was an advertisement.
I contacted the station and was met with great defensiveness by the Development Director. The conversation went on for some time and concluded with the Development Director's statement "each month I open that check and that is what it is all about". Although I know that there are at least 2 locally owned independent book shops that support this same station, I do not recall ever hearing their shops promoted...
Then he starts with the community radio "should surrport [sic] the community that you [sic] call home and should be supported by the same" and urges everyone on the phone tree to come down hard on those corporate appeasers and enablers.
Oh, Rob...
That was just obvious
Public radio stations are non-profit businesses. By FCC regulations, they cannot have advertisers. So they contract with local businesses to sponsor or underwrite, programming. Nearly 800 "community public radio" stations are the National Public Radio network. Those stations themselves are responsible for over half of NPR's budget, which they collect from "listeners like you" and from local sponsors. So if you don't hear local businesses on your local station, the businesses are not supporting their programming.
On the other hand, it might appear that the "Development Director" you encountered was pulling your leg. A national sponsor (like Amazon, for instance) would not underwrite a local station because it would be redundant. Except if the station were reeeallly special.
Tell your 2 local bookshops to get in touch with the station in question and underwrite something. The people who listen to public radio are more likely to go to a bookstore than the people who listen to talk radio. Who are more likely to merely drool.
I might also add that a radio station is not yours by virtue of your having tuned your crystal set to its frequency. That "in the public interest" and "public service" stuff is set dressing. Legally, a radio station is only required to broadcast on its assigned frequency, identify itself by callsign/community of license once per hour, and follow regulations set and administered by the Federal Communications Commission.
Did the "advertisement" that you heard encourage listeners to "go immediately" to Amazon? Did it mention special prices or offers? Was it disruptive or out of place in the program? You might ask what the station policy is for underwriter announcements. Stations can have their own rules, but generally a mention of fifteen seconds (or thirty words) is the common industry standard. If your problem is legitimate, contact the

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs
Bureau Consumer Complaints
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
And, use spellcheck.

(This presentation includes a photograph of Mary Tyler Moore.)

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