The Public Square

Dale Sinder of Urbana on Standards for NPR and PBS Underwriter Content


My name is Dale Sinder from Urbana. I am a long time friend of WILL. I recently received a letter from WILL reminding me that it is time to renew my membership. This caused me to sigh a bit and to think long and hard.

I have recently become distressed by some of the "Commercials" I see on WILL TV. I know PBS does not call them "Commercials" but rather "underwriter acknowledgements". But let's face it, some now look like and sound like Commercials.

The one that finally went too far for me is from Exxon/Mobil. In it, a "Senior Geoscientist" tells me that they are concerned about "pollutants" in SOME natural gas - pollutants like CO2, infamous CO2, and they are doing something about that. I'm sure CO2 does pollute natural gas. Raw natural gas is processed before we use it. Unprocessed natural gas contains many pollutants worse than CO2, hydrogen sulfide for example. What the Senior Geoscientist fails to mention is that burning the natural gas is going to produce enormously more CO2 than may be contained in it as a pollutant. This commercial strikes me at best as misleading and at worst as propaganda. What distresses me is that PBS permits itself to be used in this way. I believe they know better.

So, I struggle with the idea of discontinuing my support of WILL and PBS for this reason. But that would only make PBS more dependent on the likes of Exxon/Mobil. So, do I increase my support? No, because I cannot outbid Exxon/Mobil. I and all who are now listening cannot collectively outbid Exxon/Mobil. What is to be done?

Please call PBS and WILL and urge them to put more rigorous standards in place for underwriter content.