I was flipping channels on Wednesday night when I came across a pledge campaign on D.C. PBS station WHUT (Howard University Television). Travel-show host Rick Steves was doing the usual spiel about how PBS is a “national treasure” that assumes we’re intelligent people.
But then came the usual hustle: Steves said PBS “is a TV station that treats us not like consumers, but like neighbors.” Then for the next five minutes, Steves undermined that by describing all the goodies you could get if you pledged $60 or $160, like DVDs of every travel show Rick Steves has ever made.
While the screen showed an 800 number and the credit cards they were accepting, Steves hailed how PBS “broadens our perspectives and makes us smart.” Somehow, we’re not smart enough to figure out that consumerism is the pitch they’re making. It's "public noncommercial television," even if they're selling us DVDs in exchange for contributions.
They can’t exactly say “please fund another year of dire global-warming alarmism and Fidel Castro tributes.” Even if they’d define that left-wing propaganda as “making us smart.”