Public radio has its merits. As an example, it’s one of very few options one can tune into for long periods of time without being subjected to lethal doses of what is oft described, with a disturbing lack of irony, as “the best new music.”*
*To further clarify what constitutes a lethal dose, I submit the following: Individuals of average cognitive ability (average, in this instance, meaning beyond the age of sixteen and at a point in life where one no longer buttresses their every utterances with “like” and “so”) can withstand about four doses of the Dave Matthews Band per day, two doses of the entire R&B genre per week, and seven seconds of any songstress who could conceivably be confused with Britney Spears over the course of a decade.
But to return to public radio, which ostensibly offers an escape from the above horrors, this freedom from sonic molestation does come at a price – the fund drive.
The fund drive, for the uninitiated, is a week-long aural assault that, thankfully, only rolls around once or twice a year. And it is during this time public radio will rally the dark powers, namely its legion of hosts with excellent speaking voices, and try every manner of persuasion legal under the Geneva Convention to get you to send them money. However, and for the sake of summarization, their methods can be distilled to the three Gs – or “gifts, gimmicks, and guilt.” For educational purposes, examples of each are provided below.
Jane: “Welcome back to public radio where we’re in the midst of our semi-annual fund drive!”
Tom: “If you contribute now, at the ten dollar a month tightwad level, we’ll send you…” There’s rattling in the background. “We’ll send you…this authentic…one-of-a-kind….screw.”
Jane: “That’s a beautiful screw, Tom.”
Tom: “Yes it is, and it can be yours when you pledge ten bucks a month to public radio.”
Tom: “If you contribute now, a generous benefactor has offered to match what we receive dollar for dollar.”
Jane: “So what better time to cash in that stupid 401K and send the proceeds to us? It won’t be nearly enough to retire on. So, why don’t you admit that you’ll be distributing carts down at the mega mart until they prop you up in a corner and call the funeral home to do a pick-up, and send your retirement earnings to public radio?”
Tom: “Well, Jane, I’m sold.”
Jane: “Alright people, we need to raise twenty thousand dollars in the next thirty minutes, and so if you good-for-nothing listeners don’t get on the phone and contribute, Tom and I are going to eat this puppy.”
Tom: “You know, Jane, I hope the bums don’t contribute. This puppy looks mighty tasty, and I didn’t get breakfast.”
Jane: “I know what you mean, and he’s so cute. Aren’t you, boy – aren’t you, boy?”
Tom: “Oh, and what’s this? I just heard several members of our generous staff have offered to eat a puppy as well. That means if we don’t raise the twenty thousand in the next thirty minutes, we here at public radio will eat this entire litter of Sheltie puppies.”
Jane: “They look cute and tasty. Don’t call us. See if we care.”
All right, so that last one was a combination of guilt and gimmick. The point remains the same. But in defense of public radio, it does provide some necessary and socially responsible programming. And what I mean by that is that it keeps a not inconsiderable population of lunatics safely indoors where they cannot do substantial amounts of damage via the expression of their opinions. Those curious as to my particular meaning here have obviously never listened to a show that invites listeners to call in and add their own tiny fragments of genius to what otherwise might have been an interesting discussion.
Then again, their ignorance is not without humor value – there is very little more amusing than a major politician, coaxed on to one of these call-in shows against his or her better judgment, attempting to seriously address a rogue caller’s concerns about that moon-based death ray the Chinese are so obviously building. Those moments are almost as good as when, during a discussion about immigrant worker rights with a well-known labor leader, someone calls in to let the world, or rather the microcosm of it that listens to public radio, know that they love their dog and do not know what they would do without him/her. You’d think dead air couldn’t be funny. You’d be wrong.