Public Service Tally Is $9.6B

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The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation made it official Monday: As first reported in Broadcasting & Cable, local broadcasters generated $9.6 billion in public service in 2003, combining donated public-service-address time, disaster relief and money raised for charity.

That is down a notch from the $9.9 billion total for 2001, the last year surveyed, and not enough for some media critics.

NAB pointed out that $1 billion alone in 2001 related to 9/11 efforts. The results were announced at the NABEF's Service to America Summit (B&C is a co-sponsor), where Bonneville President/CEO Bruce Reese called it a "conservative" estimate of only one part of broadcasters' overall contribution to the public weal.

The study was a census of more than 11,000 full-power commercial radio and TV stations.
Not included in the census were PSA's that might have included some partial or in-kind payment to stations (those form ONDCP, for example), network PSAs, lost ad revenue from covering breaking news or emergencies, or the hourly value of station personnel.

Some critics say it's still not enough, or at least not enough of the right kind of help. "I don't think there is anything special about a broadcaster sponsoring a walk for breast cancer," FCC Chairman Michael Powell told B&C in January. "I care what broadcasters do with the spectrum." Coincidentally (as far as we know, at least), NAB announced in May that its top award this year is going to Nancy Brinker, the driving force behind breast cancer walks.

Andy Schwartzman from Media Access Project dismisses fund raising fundraising as cause-based marketing. "That stuff to me is just feel-good marketing. Send Bozo the Clown to the hospital doesn't count. It's got to be programming," he says.

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