A Peek at Live TV: Pledge Time in San Francisco

It’s pledge season again. Across the nation, public television and radio stations are reminding their viewers that non-commercial broadcasting “is possible only with support from viewers like you.” KQED in San Francisco is one of our nation’s top stations, and I really like flying down to do travel marathons with them, as I have for the last 15 years. With this clip, you can see the action from my seat during an actual break. (We’re nearly done, and my co-host, Greg Sherwood, is just wrapping up the break, thanking volunteers and groups that helped out.) There are three cameras, a floor director, a table full of gifts to fondle, a room full of volunteers hoping to answer lots of phone calls, and my co-host and me. We ad lib it back and forth for about 12 minutes per break, with video “roll-ins” showing off the gifts and reviewing the thank-you packages. It was exciting for me, because this is the first time I’ve seen our new series actually broadcast. And better yet, even though we were up against the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the World Series, the phones were ringing like mad. In a good six hours of travel like we did last Saturday, we raise about $80,000 for the station.

In Europe, they dispense with all this, figuring it’s worthwhile and more efficient just to have the government pay for it with tax dollars. In the USA, we do it this way — in a hundred such stations across the country. Either way, I’m thankful people recognize the value of having one place on the dial that treats its viewers as citizens rather than as customers, and broadcasts high-minded and challenging programming.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.