Hundt to PBS: Say no to ad dough

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top communications regulator on Monday urged pubcasters to reject the idea of accepting paid commercials to shore up their finances and bankroll quality programming.

“While I honor those who are searching for creative ways to keep public TV strong, the recent proposal to run commercials on PBS two nights a week would, in my opinion, fundamentally alter the noncommercial nature of this unique and vital broadcasting service,” Federal Communications Commission chairman Reed Hundt said.

“It reminds me of those non-alcoholic beers Sharps and O’Doul’s — it’s delusional,” he added in a speech to a conference sponsored by the U of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Former PBS president Lawrence Grossman has proposed allowing commercials two nights a week on otherwise commercial-free public TV.

At least half a dozen big public TV stations — including those in Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Miami — are reported to be considering the idea. But other big stations oppose the plan.

A handful of stations in the early 1980s experimented temporarily with paid ads.

Currently, corporations that underwrite public TV programs are allowed to run on-air announcements about their companies. But the underwriters do not peddle particular products.

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