US Public Service Broadcaster to Sell Web Advertising

29 August 2006

In its long and honourable history PBS, America's state-funded broadcasting system, has eschewed ads. But in a move alienating many of its supporters, PBS has decided to accept ads on its website. However, its airwaves will remain uncontaminated.

For the time being.

PBS this week named the newly formed online sales division of National Public Broadcasting to handle "display underwriting" and digital-sponsorships sales. But PBS is choosy as to what it will or won't accept.

Aware it is walking on eggshells, the broadcaster has vetoed ads for alcohol, M-rated video-games, animal furs, gambling, political and advocacy groups, and "material that advertises products to children".

Ads considered kosher will now appear on the section fronts of the PBS website - among which are arts, news and views, history, science and technology, and business and finance.

Ads will also appear on PBS' two main children's sites, and Currently, PBS allows ad banners on its sites, but only to promote its own programs and products.

The usual suspects are already up in arms. Commercial Alert -a group associated with legendary consumerist Ralph Nader - slammed PBS for taking web ads. "This is a betrayal of parents and children across the country," said executive director Gary Ruskin.

In fine fulminating form, Ruskin continued: "PBS has forgotten its mission, and is selling our children to the highest bidder. PBS President Paula Kerger should be fired immediately."

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff