In a Sept. 21 editorial, the Kennebec Journal said the Maine Public Broadcasting Network should get down off its high horse and join all agencies and creatures of the state of Maine in competing for the appropriations it wants or has and won’t willingly relinquish.

This is absolutely right, but more needs to be said. Acting less self important would be refreshing, but honesty about its business practices — i.e., the constant expansion of its commercialization — would be even more welcome.

MPBN, since its inception 50 years ago, has been and remains under a statutory constraint to provide “public noncommercial radio and television programs” paid for by employing the “flexibility for combining federal, state and private financial assistance;” and by developing “the independent fund raising potential that public broadcasting has demonstrated.”

For quite some time now it has ignored both the letter and the spirit of its enabling legislation. It sells, and appears also to barter, airtime all the while crowing about being non-commercial.

MPBN began by just mentioning names; progressed to including locations and later to what products and services are being hawked. Now, splayed at the very bottom of that very slippery slope, for money or other things of value, they will spout the whole nine yards gushing in superlatives. For businesses and organizations too dense to grasp the complexities of such an arrangement they employ people “to explain” the benefits available in return for giving money, or other things of value, to public broadcast stations.

This function is known universally as sales.

What’s wrong with MPBN selling or trading its services? It violates the law! To continue in its shameless commercial practices MPBN should obtain changes in its governing law. Barring that, it should at least admit its indifference to law and proper conduct.

Harvey DeVane


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