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To PBS With (Tough) Love
March 24, 2012 10:50 AM   Subscribe

But this season, PBS chose to move Independent Lens and P.O.V. to a new time slot -- 10 pm, ET, on Thursday nights. This may not seem like such a big deal at first, until you know that on Thursday nights stations can broadcast any program they like in prime time, whether it's part of the PBS schedule or not. Many take the opportunity to offers viewers locally produced programs, British sitcoms or reruns of Antiques Roadshow. As a result, episodes of the independent documentary series can now be run anywhere local stations choose to fit them in (here in New York, WNET airs the films at 11 p.m. on Sundays) or maybe not at all.
Bill Moyers writes an open letter to PBS about scheduling changes which have ruined PBS as Tuesday night destination for documentary television.
posted by hippybear (17 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tuesday night or Thursday night destination?
posted by item at 10:52 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


from the article: "For years, Independent Lens and P.O.V. held a nationwide time slot as part of the PBS core schedule on Tuesday nights, with public TV stalwart Frontline as a worthy lead-in, funneling to the independent films just the kind of audience that enjoys and appreciates documentaries."
posted by hippybear at 10:58 AM on March 24, 2012


Ahh. I thought maybe someone was trying to pull the ol' Tues/Thurs switcheroo on me.
posted by item at 11:15 AM on March 24, 2012


Or here in New York, on WNET, they can endlessly run what appears to be infomercials for their entire fundraising season.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:40 AM on March 24, 2012


The article in the post contains a link to a petition to PBS to restore the original schedule. You can comment on the petition, email the petitioners (Kartemquin films), or tweet #PBSNeedsIndies.

I DVR Independent Lens and POV, so I was pretty much unaware of schedule changes until now. The article mentions that ratings have plummeted, which again surprises me because I thought most people time-shifted these days. Guess not.

Then again, PBS' pledge week(s) tend to remind me that as a child-free Gen-Xer, I'm the exception rather than the rule when it comes to their core membership demographic... the recent 7-CD '60's hitmaker sound-alike compilation was a new eyebrow-raiser for me last weekend.
posted by Currer Belfry at 11:45 AM on March 24, 2012


*Or here in New York, on WNET, they can endlessly run what appears to be infomercials for their entire fundraising season.*

Exactly. If they don't move these shows, where are they supposed to put their meager fundraising efforts? I think KQED's current pledge drive has been going at least since January 1.
posted by rhizome at 12:38 PM on March 24, 2012


Our family has long been a supporter of the local PBS but this Spring Pledge drive is really pissing me off. They continually replay such gems as the Legends of Doo-Wap, Andre Reiu Plays Strauss or Peter, Paul and Mary over and over and over…

The worst are the outright infomercials. The Amen diet or Brain strengthening program where they pimp their books and dvds. One Yoga program is just a montage of people talking about how great the Yoga video is, WITH NO ACTUAL YOGA DEMONSTRATION.

I'll keep donating due to great programs like Frontline, Nova and Moyers but they really aren't going to pull in the big pledges by showing the Lawrence Welk Reunion Show for the bajillionth time.
posted by jabo at 12:41 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


*I'm the exception rather than the rule when it comes to their core membership demographic... the recent 7-CD '60's hitmaker sound-alike compilation was a new eyebrow-raiser for me last weekend.*

Well, I think their viewership is different than their fundraising demographics. Younger people probably don't see the point when 50% of airtime seems to be fundraising breaks, so all they have to go on are people who have pledged in the past, older people. However, I'm pretty sure all of the frustrations I notice about PBS are death rattles. Kenneth Tomlinson deserves special mention here.
posted by rhizome at 12:43 PM on March 24, 2012


I simply could not watch that Peter, Paul and +Mary cut with pleas for money. I am definitely not looking forward to 3 minutes of Downton Abbey and interspersed with10 minutes of begging.
posted by Cranberry at 12:46 PM on March 24, 2012


PBS has turned into a channel of nothing but "FREE YER AGING MIND BY LEARNING PIANO IN 12 EASY YOGA STEPS" and I'm not crazy about the questionable science some of these programs promote. It doesn't fit with the excellent journalistic standards that many of their shows (such as Frontline) have. But I guess they figure that's where the money is, and they need money.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:00 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to love PBS but I have no idea who they're aiming at these days. Are there that many fans of Irish Step Dancing, Wayne Dyer and Yanni?

Don't answer that, I don't really want to know.
posted by octothorpe at 1:04 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like Metafilter, PBS would prefer not to host discussions about bad things.
posted by jamjam at 2:59 PM on March 24, 2012


Who watches tv according to some arbitrary schedule anymore?
posted by humanfont at 3:56 PM on March 24, 2012


Who watches tv according to some arbitrary schedule anymore?

As of October 2011, DVR penetration was around 44% of households in the US, with 90% of all TV viewing still being live TV.
posted by hippybear at 5:28 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work in this field, and while I understand the symbolism of destination viewing, I think PBS has realized that people watch what they want when they want on all sorts of devices, not sitting on the couch in from of the nice box with rabbit ears. Also, as more local stations stray away from the PBS fold, like KCET in Los Angeles, local station managers want to program for their specific audiences. Prime time simply doesn't matter.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:06 PM on March 24, 2012


I've produced content for Independent Lens. Like most people, I could care less what night of the week the show is on TV, or if it's broadcast on TV at all.

Bill Moyers is a PBS dinosaur with a personal connection to the foundation that pays him to create shows that nobody watches. In this letter he's talking about a rearranging of the deck chairs at PBS as if it could right the ship.

The future for this type of media rests with the Kickstarter model. There is no 'underserved audience' in the internet age, so middlemen at CPB/ITVS/PBS etc. will no longer decide how funding should be allocated to best appease the political motivations of whomever is writing their paycheck.

Worthy films/documentaries will be made because producers will be be able to convince audiences to pay them to make their work. Or to support the awesome work they've created. And PBS will _at best_ air these programs after they've been viewed millions of times online. You know, like Downton Abbey.
posted by subpixel at 7:55 PM on March 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bill Moyers is a PBS dinosaur with a personal connection to the foundation that pays him to create shows that nobody watches.

Well I watch him (or more frequently listen on my IPOD). But perhaps I am nobody. And if what you assert is true then the future is indeed bleak. His voice today is more important than ever.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:59 AM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


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