Saturday, March 08, 2008

When are ads not ads?

The best local station in the Twin Cities (and probably in running for one of the best nation-wide), The Current, recently finished it's membership drive. Being a public readio station, it's member drive is pretty much the boilerplate PBS/NPR beg-for-cash telethon, but with hip music instead of Lawrence Welk and Dr. Who.

And every year during the mebership drive, I have a strong internal debate about giving them my money. Don't get me wrong, I really like the Current. It plays enough of what I know to make me comfortable, but plenty of new stuff to keep me somewhat in the loop. Though I'm not really big on the indie shoe-gazer crap they're all so in love with, but you take the bad with the good, I suppose. And if it went off the air, I would most assuredly miss it. Good music delivered by knowledgable DJs actually crafting real set lists is a giant rarity in today's radio landscape. It's certainly nothing I ever experienced in my 23 years in Iowa, and probably will not have again wherever I end up in life. So I really don't want to see it go.

But the reason I don't quite feel comfortable forking over my petty amount of cash is the ads. One of the mantra's they repeat throughout the membership drive is that the Current is listener-supported, adverts-free radio. And if that were the case, I'd be more than happy to shill out some of my measly earnings.

The only catch is they're not ad-free in the slightest. The most glaring example came this morning, as one fo their most excellent DJs Mark Wheat explained that this section of the program was brough to me by "Great Clips, with dozens of locations throughout the Twin Cities metro area...'don't worry, you're at Great Clips!'"

I fail to see how that's not an ad. Just because the DJ read it instead of a struggling actor picking up cash on the side doesn't make it any less of an advertisement. And if they've got corporate sponsors, why do they need to squeeze money from a poor graduate student?

So I guess it's kind of a shit-or-get-off-the-pot type thing. If they were truly listener supported, I'd have no problem with supporting them. But if maor corporations are giving them money, I'm not really convinced they need mine.

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