Working With Your PBS Station

Dateline: December 1, 1999

After reading Does Your PBS Station Show...? you might be wondering how exactly to approach your local PBS station with specific programming suggestions. I interviewed the Program Directors at two different stations (one large, the other tiny) for a look at how Public Television thinks and operates.

First, contacting the PBS station in your area can be as easy as being online. Most stations maintain a website now (find your station at the national PBS website) and provide a place to give them suggestions or feedback electronically. Alternatively, a well-written "snail mail" letter c/o the Program Director of a station has traditionally been an excellent way to share your views. Many stations also have a viewer phone-in "hotline."

Given that most stations only have a limited amount of money to spend on syndicated British shows (and timeslots to run them in), I asked each programming director what their philosophy was when it came to programming priorities: continuing to run popular (i.e. well pledged) series over and over, or trying out new, untried series? Both stressed that viewer feedback played a significant part in their decision to keep shows on. The smaller PBS station even said the groups they could rely on to come in to work pledge drives year after year carried a lot of weight, not only for their support, but their knowledge of British shows, calling them "the junior program executives." Perhaps not every PBS station would rely so much on their volunteers for programming suggestions, but both were always on the lookout for new shows to try, and often only first hear about them from viewers. For example, I casually mentioned Goodnight Sweetheart to a program director, who immediately showed a lot of interest in it once I described its premise of being a time-traveling comedy starring Nicholas Lyndhurst. But this was the first time she'd ever heard of it!

Next page > Competing For PBS Dollars > Page 1, 2

Previous Features