KPBS Radio Says That Paid Spots Aren't Commercials

KPBS-FM(89.5), San Diego's commercial-free public broadcasting station, has come up with a new definition for a commercial advertisement.

Under new policy guidelines, a nonprofit group can pay $100 for time on the station to advertise their products or services. According to KPBS, the spots are "30 seconds in length placed within program breaks throughout KPBS radio's schedule."

But don't call them commercials. The station calls them "General Support Announcements."

There are no GSAs currently on the air, but the station is marketing them in its new media kit, hoping to generate a little extra revenue.

"Although they may appear on the surface to be commercial-like, they're not," said Judith Lemoncelli, KPBS corporate development director, who pointed out that many public broadcasting stations around the country already use GSAs. "It is an opportunity only for nonprofit groups to take advantage of."

Lemoncelli also points out that, unlike regular commercials, the price of the GSAs doesn't fluctuate with the ratings of the programs. The GSA simply affords nonprofit groups an opportunity for more exposure than the traditional underwriting credits offered by the station.

The nonprofit groups can't use the GSAs to advertise specific fund-raising activities. They can use them to describe specific activities, programs or special events. The media kit includes examples such as a health-care organization describing its services or a museum promoting an exhibit.

Now, the concept is almost word for word what is commonly known as a public service announcement. But don't get GSAs confused with PSAs. Commercial stations run PSAs for free. KPBS charges for the GSAs. That's the difference.

In addition, commercial stations "might or might not run (a group's PSAs), and they might run them at 2 a.m.," Craig Dorval, KPBS-FM's station manager, pointed out. At least with the GSAs, a group can get some guarantee as to how and when the spots will air.

Naturally, the only reason KPBS is undertaking such a plan is because constant financial pressures continue to dog the station's every move. And, granted, $100 is a nominal charge.

Yet it seems rather off-kilter that public broadcasting stations should charge nonprofit groups for air time.

In the realm of silly radio promotions, XTRA-FM's (91X) "Expose the X" contest stands out as a contest that actually makes sense. It actually puts listeners to work for 91X, asking them to find interesting and unique ways to "expose" the station. Sometimes they get a little carried away, evidenced by the contestants that recently ripped up a University City hillside to put the station's logo near Interstate 5.

Four years ago, the winners ranged from an animated short commercial to a contestant who convinced Valerie Bertinelli to wear a 91X pin when she hosted "Saturday Night Live." This year's contest ended last week, and the winner was 37-year-old Ken Hermann, (not to be confused with Kenneth Herman, the classical music critic for this paper) who set up herds of cardboard cow emblazoned with the 91X logo around town. Second place went to Larry Little and his "Where's the chicken?" commercial, a bizarre black and white video which he aired on local television. It was far more interesting than anything ever produced by the 91X promotions department.

There are several stories flying around about the potential sale of KRMX-FM (84.9). Some reports have former KCBQ co-owner Simon T involved in the purchase. From the Florida Everglades, where he is in the midst of an RV trip around the country, Simon flatly denied he is involved. Former Noble Broadcasting executive Norman Feuer said he is equally uninterested in the station, which has been foundering for months.

Sandusky Radio purged most of the station's employees earlier in the year, installed a new general manager and a new program director-morning guy--former B100 star Bobby Rich--and changed the station's identity to "The New Mix." The massive changes have fared little better than the old mix, as the station has posted ridiculously-low ratings.

Industry sources confirm that the station is for sale, and they believe a price somewhere between $10.2 and $12.5 million has been established.

Rumor Control has been busy this week. Some industry wags have speculated that XHTZ-FM (Z90) program director Brian White is in line for the vacant program director job at KFMB-FM (B100). But White says he hasn't even talked to the station. . . .

In the sexual harassment case filed against KGTV (Channel 10) by ex-newsroom employee Gina Vann, a Superior Court jury last week ruled in favor of the station, rejecting all claims. . . .

The Emmy awards for television news announced Saturday had the look of a three-horse race, just like always. Except this year a fourth station, KUSI-TV (Channel 51), was eligible. Even though Channel 51's 10 p.m. newscast was only on the air for the last few months of the entry period, Channel 51 did submit entries. It just didn't get any nominations in the major categories. . . .

Tom O'Brien, most recently of WRKI in Danbury, Conn., is the new KGB-FM (101.5) program director.

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