Now...Public Adcasting?

Come on, guys! It was bad enough when America's public broadcasting turned its grateful and formerly discreet mentions of corporate contributors into mini-blurbs for services and products, not excluding the wine and beer touted repeatedly for radio fund-raising events. Now there's a proposal to have out-and-out commercials on public television two nights a week.

If two nights, why not all the time? Why not make the Public Broadcasing Service (PBS) one more advertising network, with all the strength and weakness of unblushing commerce?

As solicitors and customers of advertising ourselves, we applaud its proper uses. But the attraction of ad-free public broadcasting showed in its early name, educational broadcasting. It was the promise of diverse cultural, humane, and intellectual fare enriching many segments of the public as an alternative to commercial broadcasting's mass audience entertainment.

After educational institutions took the lead, the US government began to provide financial support for the kind of national asset long supported by Britain with its BBC. And PBS, along with public radio, ran with the ball - so successfully that millions of Americans began sending in money to add support. Will people want to send money to a station or network making money from advertising? Lost in the shuffle could be the sense of public broadcasting as a cooperative effort in which Americans participate not only as fans but as volunteers and financial contributors by choice.

We have not been alone in questioning TV commercials for children in the school classroom. We're not alone now in hoping public broadcasting stops short of being Madison Avenue two nights a week - or at all.

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