Subscribe! SUBSCRIBE! #JusJoJan

The lovely and talened Willow provided today’s prompt for Just Jot It January, subscribe.

The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the United States was formed in late 1969 and was made up of TV stations that had, up to that point, broadcasted educational programs from the National Educational Television network, including classes for which you could earn college credit. Unlike the traditional networks that pay affiliates to broadcast their programming, PBS is a program distributor that licenses content to its member stations and state networks. While PBS has a national schedule, its member stations have a lot of latitude as far as when the programs run. Member stations can also purchase content from other distributors, such as the BBC and ITV, and create programs of their own which can then be licensed by other member stations. The Blogger’s Best Friendβ„’ has a whole article on the service.

The member stations receive most of their funding from subscribers in the community, sort of "pay TV on the honor system," as Marty Robinson, for years the voice of WTTW in Chicago, used to call it. Several times a year, the stations have pledge drives to cajole the viewing community into becoming subscribers, and show special programming that often becomes a further enticement to subscribe, as products that tie in with the program are offered as a bonus for higher pledges. For example, a station might be showing the movie The Sound Of Music during a pledge drive. During one of the many pledge breaks they take during the movie, they encourage viewers to pay the subscription price (about $50 for a year) and become a subscriber, but then they’ll offer, for a $75 pledge, a soundtrack CD, for a $100 pledge, a Blu-Ray copy of the movie, for a $125 pledge, the CD and the Blu-Ray, and for $200, you get the CD, the Blu-Ray, and your very own von Trapp child. (Well, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.)

One of the more popular programs on WTTW from the mid-’70’s until the turn of the century was Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and in 1975 Graham Chapman and Terry Jones from the cast made several video clips to help WTTW sell subscriptions. In lieu of my usual commercial, here they are.

18 thoughts on “Subscribe! SUBSCRIBE! #JusJoJan

  1. I have subscribed to PBS in the past and even the Canadian non profit TVO which is excellent as well. I can’t imagine being without these programs. By the way, love Monty Python and this was very funny.

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  2. I used to subscribe to PBS all the time. Got a set of books from the Upstairs Downstairs pledge drive (wish I still had the books, I’d re-read). I loved Masterpiece Theater and the Mystery programs.

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    1. We subscribed when we lived in Chicago, but haven’t since we’ve lived here. WTTW was such a good station, and the two we have don’t compare favorably. I think we liked the programs better…

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  3. PBS was how I found “Doctor Who”, for which I was eternally grateful. I say “was” because the quality of the show went downhill greatly with Capaldi (the actual writing, not necessarily his acting). I also became interested in the humanities thanks to Masterpiece Theater. And, of course, the fine British mysteries like “Miss Marple” and “Poroit”. Now, my wife and I have started a tradition. Every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. we sit in front of the TV with snacks to turn on PBS and watch “The Lawrence Welk Show.” Something we both enjoy immensely. To me, the channel is well worth a subscription.

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    1. I’ve not been happy with the quality of the reboot of Doctor Who. The effects are better, and I think they’ve come to relying on them more than on the characters and stories. The old series had some fantastic writing.

      Another Lawrence Welk fan! I used to watch it with my grandmother during its syndicated years.

      We have two PBS stations in Atlanta, but can only receive one of them with our antenna. Lord knows we’ve tried…

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  4. I like the way you keep filling in missing pieces of my childhood. πŸ™‚ I thought I remembered a pre-PBS WTTW, and your mention of NET brought that back.

    “The New Red Green Show” was always popular on the Michigan PBS stations, and they would often run a Red Green special during their pledge drives. I loved his word for that: “pledge-a-tainment”.

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    1. Red Green runs down here, too.

      Channel 11 started back in 1955, so they were on the air for quite a while before PBS even existed. They were off the air most weekends until I was in college. Did you ever see their studio at the Museum of Science and Industry?

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      1. Last time I went to the Science and Industry museum was in 5th grade, I think. I might have seen the studio, but I don’t remember it.

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          1. Ah, OK. 5th grade for me would have been 1972-73, so I probably missed it. What a wonderfully exhausting day that was … school bus in from Carpentersville, then the Big Three: Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum. Then another long ride home. But I’m getting off-topic.

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