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Null zeroes in on PBS, fills void in coffers

NPR host/health expert raises $3.5 mil for 15 stations

NEW YORK — Fifteen PBS TV stations got an early delivery from Santa this year as radio host Gary Null broke PBS’ fundraising record by single-handedly soliciting $3.5 million during his on-air pleas for viewer contributions in early December.

Null, a nutrition and health expert with a syndicated show on National Public Radio, significantly boosted fundraising for the PBS stations on which he appeared.

The stations aired a special called “How to Live Forever, With Gary Null” between Nov. 29 and Dec. 14. Null asked for contributions during breaks and also took calls from viewers who had health questions. He also gave away copies of his new book.

His appearances on WNET and WLIW in the New York market solicited $1,038,000 for the two stations.

Cups overfloweth

In several cases, Null’s brief appearances drew more money than the stations had budgeted for their entire pledge periods. In Tallahassee, Fla., Null raised $105,000. The station’s goal was $75,000 for the multiday fundraising effort.

Although Null has been on radio for 22 years, he said that PBS stations have always turned down his offer to help them raise money because they didn’t believe that an NPR personality would have much appeal on television. “I have knocked on the door of PBS, but they would never let me in,” said Null. “They always felt that PBS and NPR had different audiences, but they’re the same.”

After Miami, the deluge

PBS station WPBT in Miami took a chance on him Nov. 29 and raised more than $300,000. That figure was within $35,000 of the station’s total fundraising goal.

When word of that great success got around, PBS stations from all around flooded him with requests to appear on their stations.

While it would seem logical that public TV will line up to secure Null for the next pledge period, Null is not counting on it.

“I never assume anything,” he said.

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