Commercial Opportunity

KERA Channel 13, Dallas’ public television station, should find out this month whether it has permission to become a commercial television station – at least temporarily. In a plan approved by Congress last spring, 10 public television stations and 10 public radio stations (KERA 90 FM has applied, too) will be chosen for an 18-month commercial experiment that begins January 1.

Originally proposed by Republican Congressman Jim Collins of Dallas (whose conservative views have repeatedly clashed with KERA’s program content over the years), the idea is to make up for declining federal support of public broadcasting under the Reagan administration.

The coming legislation will allow the stations to broadcast no more than four minutes of commercials per hour (two minutes less than commercial counterparts) and no more than two minutes of commercials consecutively. The television stations won’t be allowed to interrupt programs of average length with commercials; they’ll have to run during breaks.

Just what kind of commercials will be allowed? Institutional advertising will probably make up the lion’s share, according to former Channel 13 fund-raiser John Ford, who’s now coordinating the commercials project for the National Association of Public Television Stations in Washington, D.C. “But product advertising will also be allowed.” We can hardly wait.

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