"Ew, It's 'Annoying Man'"
That was my 4-year old son's reaction to a loud, obnoxious detergent commercial during the Good Night Show on the Sprout network, which is a partnership between PBS, Sesame Workshop, Comcast, and HIT Entertainment.
With a click of the remote, he was gone.
It's a shame that the same research, thought, and care that goes in to Sprout's content wasn't applied to the advertising acceptance policy.
The inappropriateness of the detergent commercial's production values are obvious because of the setting -- the audience is primarily children (even if Mom is in the room), this is public television content, and the Good Night Show is supposed to be calming.
Inappropriate sponsorship choices are increasingly common in public broadcasting. They aren't always as obvious as "Annoying Man" but they will likely have the same effect. Click, click.
It would be nice to think that the industry could avoid this fate, but evidence suggests otherwise. The PRADO listserv in public radio is always fielding questions about whether specific sponsorship language will pass FCC muster. Some of the examples are so far from public radio's core values it's amazing that any station would ever consider putting the announcement on the air. The same can be said of certain network sponsorship announcements as well.
The trend in the business is to focus on what's legal, not what's appropriate. The letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law. Not getting fined by the FCC is more important than maintaining core values, even during underwriting announcements.
This is no small issue as public broadcasting becomes more reliant on commercial dollars. Accepting more underwriting is a necessity. Competing for those dollars will be tough. Finding the industry leadership to defend our core values in this environment is essential.