This is a relief.
An appeals court has upheld a ban on political advertising on public broadcasting — reversing an earlier ruling by members of the same court.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, ruled against a public broadcaster seeking to have the ban overturned on 1st Amendment grounds. The broadcaster was also seeking to be able to run paid advertisements from for-profit companies.
Let’s not kid ourselves; most public radio stations have underwriter messages that border on being ads without actually having them. While I understand the need for public radio stations to raise money any way they can, there’s something sacred about keeping it to the occasional fund-raiser (which some stations actually do very well, at least in terms of not being guilt-inducing and annoying). Public radio is supposed to be commercial free, not just because it relieves the station of the task of blocking time to broadcast content in the middle of all the ads, but it gives them at least the illusion that they do operate, as my broadcasting history professor of forty years ago said, in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.”
I’m glad to see that public radio stations will not be able to get paid advertising or — thank dog — political ads. It would just make them like every other station, and besides, you can never have too many NPR tote bags.
That brings me to a tangential point: Why aren’t there ads here on this blog? I have nothing whatsoever against ads on a blog, and I read and even write for those that do have ads and depend on the revenue for their survival. But when I set up Bark Bark Woof Woof ten years ago, I made a semi-conscious decision not to solicit advertisers or accept them if offered. It wasn’t out of some sense of moral superiority — dog help me if I should ever feel like that — but, to paraphrase the immortal Groucho Marx, I would not want to associate with a business that would want to advertise here. (I do get the occasional solicitation from a bot that says “Hey, I read your post on ___________; very insightful! Can I guest-post about something?” The giveaway is that the post they find so insightful is “A Little Night Music” or “Short Takes.” Depending on my mood, I either delete without comment or reply that I charge $50,000 for a guest post, payable in advance with a certified check. Oddly enough, I never hear back from them.)
Not taking ads also meant that there would be no doubt whatsoever in the mind of the reader that there’s no influence on me as to what I write about. (I assume that is part of the logic behind keeping public radio and TV ad-free. The cynic in me knows that underwriters could exert some behind-the-scenes influence on what might be aired on PBS or NPR, but at least there is the patina of neutrality.) That’s not to imply that blogs with ads are under the thrall of their sponsors; quite often bloggers who are patrons of some blog ad services don’t have much of a choice of what ads appear on their sidebars. That explains why you might see an ad for the NRA on a left-wing blog. I’ve asked around, and every blogger whose site has ads has told me that they don’t give a flying rat’s ass as to what ad shows up as long as the check clears. It’s not that they don’t care or that all they’re interested in is the money; it has to do with the simple fact that for them running a blog costs money and they depend on the revenue.
I understand completely and don’t begrudge them a penny of it. I am in a position where my costs are very low and am fortunate to have a technical adviser and supporter who donates the hosting cost to the cause. I’m grateful for the support and grateful to be able to provide this humble effort to the reader without ads.
Speaking of donations, yes, I have a Donate button on the sidebar. It is there for those who feel they would like to make a donation, which would go to the maintenance of the site such as my monthly internet service. And there’s also the link to the Bark Bark Woof Woof Shop where you can buy shirts and tchotchkes. Both are guilt-free for you and labeled appropriately as Shameless Self-Promotion. (FYI, in the ten years the shop has been open, I have yet to generate enough revenue to get Cafe Press to send me a check.)
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reading.