"COMPETING FOR PBS DOLLARS" > Page 1, 2
Competition has changed the broadcasting landscape for Public Television, particularly from cable TV. It's no secret the BBC is giving preferential treatment for many of its shows to their BBC America channel, driving up the costs, and denying PBS stations from getting a "first-look" opportunity for some series. And budget priorities at most of them are usually first spent on educational programming, then buying PBS produced shows (Masterpiece Theatre, Mystery, Nova), and finally whatever is left for shows offered in syndication from sources like the BBC and American Public Television. Often, to be able to afford a series a number of PBS stations must combine forces in order to purchase it in a consortium. But if not enough stations are willing to buy in, the show cannot be purchased. I was told that recent efforts to secure the rights to Faith, a 1994 mini-series starring Michael Gambon, and the comedy series Father Ted, were unsuccessful because too few stations showed an interest (a shame!).
Finally, I asked each program director what their opinion about what the viewers most wanted: their favorites shown over and over, or are they looking for something new? Obviously they weren't about to cancel anything that enjoys huge support on their respective stations (Red Dwarf and Keeping Up Appearances on one, Doctor Who on another) and one said they get a huge number of requests for repeating old Britcoms. But at the same time said, "You have to put new programs on." Striking a balance is obviously a good part of their jobs, and viewers probably can't be expected to prefer something they've never heard of over an old favorite. My goal with these series of articles is to raise the consciousness of people so they are made aware of new shows so they in turn can request them from their stations.
In conclusion, if you've read about a show you'd like to see run in your area, be sure and let your local PBS station know about it (you might even point them to this site so they can read more about it). Keep in mind the resources of PBS are not infinite, programming costs are going up all the time, and sometimes there is just a matter of personal taste when it comes to the specific person who buys the shows. I did ask each program director if they listened to what other stations were doing, and to a degree they do. If you know a series is popular in a particular market, you might mention that when talking with your PBS station and even suggest they contact that station to find out more about it. Sometimes comparing stations is like apples and oranges, but both directors were not shy in singing the praises of shows that were hugely successful for them, and that might count for something when dealing with your station. Good luck! (And don't forget to pledge PBS early and often - money talks!)
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