It's Everyone's Favorite Time of the Year Again

Public radio pledge drive season has begun.


ANNOUNCER: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, this is the 67th day of our spring "friembership" drive here at WPDQ public radio – 87.5 on your FM dial – and we have already reached the 19-percent mark on our way to raising $400,000, is that right Jim?

STATION MANAGER: Yeah that's right Steve, thanks to the good listeners out there who have been calling and logging on to our website,, and we want to thank each and every one of them, including Myra from Springfield and Alan from Lewiston. That number again is 1-800-227-3456. Steve?

ANNOUNCER: We also just had a call from Bob in Greenville.


ANNOUNCER: He didn't pledge any money. Just wanted to know when we were going to bring back "My Word!"


ANNOUNCER: But we do have a challenge grant this morning! Phil from Georgetown says he will match pledges from divorce attorneys, up to $1,500.

STATION MANAGER: You heard it, members of the legal profession. We have volunteers standing by to take your call at 1-800-227-3456 so you can pledge your support so we can continue to bring you a wide variety of programs here at WPDQ – programs like "Mountain Rhapsodies," with your host, "Bucktooth" Billy Puckett, featuring three uninterrupted hours of vintage Appalachian pennywhistle and jaw-harp recordings from the Great Depression, each Wednesday night at eight.

ANNOUNCER: We also have some nice thank-you gifts this year, and Marci is here to tell us about those.

MARCI: That's right, Jim. When you pledge at the $25 level you will receive our very handy reusable tote bag, which is made out of 100 percent hemp fiber and has the station logo on the side so you can proudly display your support when you pick up your chard at farmer's market. At the –

ANNOUNCER: I don't know about you, but I can never have enough tote bags.

MARCI: Right you are, Steve! At the $50 level you can choose either the station-logo neti pot made out of used computer motherboards, or the combination baseball cap and spaghetti strainer. At the $75 level we have our hand-crank blood-pressure monitor, and at the $100 level you get a pair of fair-trade Himalayan salt-crystal foot detoxification blocks. . . .

STATION MANAGER: Let me jump in here for a second to mention another challenge grant. Donna from Salem wants to challenge any women who were represented in divorce proceedings by Phil fromGeorgetown and think he did a lousy job to call in, and she will match their pledges up to $3,000.

MARCI: Okay! Last but not least, at the $200 level we will send you official confirmation of your very own carbon-offset abiu tree planted in the Peruvian rainforest by Rainforest Action and Sustainability Now! with the help of indigenous tribesmen who were paid a living wage. I'm getting two.

ANNOUNCER: Thanks, Marci. Later today we'll have a very special on-air interview with Mayor Alvin Gunch of Fairview, who will tell us all about some exciting new plans they have for this year's Rutabaga Festival. That's just one of several pretty significant stories that we'll be putting up today, and we're happy to bring it to you thanks to your pledges at 1-800-277-3456 or www-is-this-pledge-drive-ever-gonna-end. Is this mic still on?

STATION MANAGER: Well, it seems to be our day for challenge grants around here. George from Glen Oak wants to challenge any men who've been . . . uh, how can I clean this up so the FCC won't fine us? Who have gotten a raw deal thanks to Phil from Georgetown and Donna the – I'm quoting here – Donna the Salem Witch, and he's willing to pony up half of everything he has left in his efficiency apartment, which, quote, "isn't much." Ha ha ha!

MARCI: Ha ha ha!

ANNOUNCER: Ha ha ha! If you've never been a member, now is the time for you to go to the phone and join now.

MARCI: That number is 1-800 . . . God, this is like something out of Kafka, isn't it?

ANNOUNCER: I was thinking "No Exit" by Sartre. Coming up in just 20 minutes, news at the top of the hour from National Public Radio. We pay over $75,000 for that show and our marketing folks say it's our most popular feature, but nine out of 10 listeners never cough up so much as a lousy plug nickel to help pay for it. You people make me –

STATION MANAGER: Hey, whaddayaknow! Here's another challenge grant, it's by Donna fromSalem again. She says she'll pledge $10,000 if there are any women out there in the audience who ever saw George from Glen Oak naked and didn't throw up a little in their mouths.

MARCI: We have volunteers pitching in to take your call so you can support public radio, radio without commercial interruption.

ANNOUNCER: Later tonight: a look inside the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee on "Marketplace," brought to you by Monsanto. Monsanto: Growth for a better world.

STATION MANAGER: What's – okay, thanks. Looks like George from Glen Oak has promised to sign over his BMW Z3 roadster to the station if we can find a divorced man whose doesn't have a ragged black hole where his heart used to be.

MARCI: Wow! Now there's a real fan of public radio, isn't that right Steve?

ANNOUNCER: It sure is, Marci. That number to call again, 1-800-dear-God-make-it-stop. That's 1, 800, somebody kill me, please kill me now. And here with the traffic and weather is Kevin.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this column originally appeared. 

NEXT: Funnyman Jon Lovitz: When it comes to taxes, Obama "is a f*cking *sshole!"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That number to call again, 1-800-dear-God-make-it-stop. That’s 1, 800, somebody kill me, please kill me now.

    Ain’t that the truth.

  2. Pledge drives are not the problem. The problem is the government funding.

    1. That, and a distinct lack of Schweddy Balls. Without the tantalizing discussion of Pete Schweddy’s Balls, NPR just isn’t worth listening to.

    2. The problem is the government funding.

      Obviously there isn’t enough government funding. If we could just get the Buffet Rule passed, then my neighbor’s poor dog wouldn’t have to sit through hours of pledge drives while listening to NPR while his owner is at work.

  3. Bart, humor is not one of your strengths.

    1. Says you. I had trouble not laughing aloud in my office. Manager might look at me strangely.

  4. Comedy is hard.

    1. Homer Simpson, contributing so as to stop the PBS pledge drive in Simpsons episode “Missionary Impossible”:

      “It’s an honor to (donate to PBS).

      Especially now, when the rich mosaic of cable programming has made public television
      so very, very unnecessary.”

  5. featuring three uninterrupted hours of vintage Appalachian pennywhistle and jaw-harp recordings from the Great Depression, each Wednesday night at eight

    Yeah, that’s PBS all right. And that’s also why I pay for HBO.

    1. Um…that show actually sounds like it has some promise. I may even have some of it on CD.

  6. Ooh. Some friends of mine are hosting the local NPR pledge drive from noon to 2 tomorrow. We’re conspiring to get the word ‘fuck’ on the air. Sure, its puerile, but so is most of public radio.

  7. Why can’t all pledge drives be like WFMU’s?

  8. three uninterrupted hours of vintage Appalachian pennywhistle and jaw-harp recordings from the Great Depression, each Wednesday night at eight.

    But … but … they have to make public radio relevant to people who haven’t traditionally cared about it (and still won’t, if the experience of public radio where I live is any indication). That said, I agree with plu1959.

  9. Ken Burns makes PBS worthwhile by himself.

    1. His documentary about the Old Negro Space Program brought tears to my eyes.

      1. Freaking brilliant. I especially loved the academic talking head.

    2. Worthwhile by what standard and to whom?

      1. Fuck you, that’s why! It’s worthwhile and you’re going to pay for it until you understand just how worthwhile it is.

  10. I almost started to nod off in the middle of this column. Thank God I don’t listen to public radio, I’d probably nod off behind the wheel on my home from work.

  11. As a rational human being, I fail to understand how these pledge drives are an improvement over advertisements.

    1. They aren’t all icky corporate-y.

    2. If I was a corporate talk radio station, I’d hold an annual pledge drive “so our readers can feel good about themselves, too.”

  12. I wanna know why the ad squirrels think I can afford (and fit into) anything from Bergdorf Goodman.

    1. All that monocle and top hat talk.

  13. What would life be without Antiques Road Show? Fucking grim is what I say.

    1. Screw that, American Pickers, Storage Wars, and Pawn Stars are better anyway.

  14. What I find so Laughable is that PBS attacks stations the use commercials from corporations while at the same time PBS acknowledges their great corporate sponsors for five minutes at the begining and end of each show. Do they not see there is no difference between a commercial and a sponsor. I know it’s their politically correct sponsor. An add is an add no matter where it’s placed in the show.

    1. My ex used to work for PBS. They’re very sensitive about the “C” word. Those are “messages” from the sponsors. LOL.

    2. Interestlingly enough old Radio shows and the early days of TV the shows usually had one sponsor and so PBS is operating in a similar fashion.

      1. The modern concept of TV commericals in essentially having multiple sponsors as supposed to only one.

  15. What I took away from this: Barton really hates divorce lawyers

  16. Hinkle is to writing what Chip Bok is to drawing. I know he agrees with us but do we really have to syndicate him? He’s just so bad.

    1. The Hink’s writing is OK, occasionally brilliant. He just doesn’t do comedy well, and is seemingly unaware of that.

      But, Bart, if you ever do that again I’m gonna swirly your ass next time you pay the beer rent at that place we both drink.

  17. Is Reason really making fun of NPR pledge drives? I believe this is akin to the pot making accusations about the kettle. And NPR doesn’t make pitches like be stuck on the high seas with our staff and our most obsessive readers.

    1. Reason sells shit to its most obsessive patrons and then uses it to give them something they want. It doesn’t extract money from the government and then turn around, cry poverty, dedicate 99% of its programming to hitting its patrons up for money, and pretend that it’s a “public interest”. A subtle but important distinction. Basically, Reason sells us something we want instead of bludgeoning us with the club of government for something we don’t.

  18. My favorite part of the article: “Reason needs your support. Please donate today!”

  19. England today reminds me of visiting my father-in-law at the stage of Alzheimer’s where he could carry on a pleasant conversation about the good old days, but couldn’t put together a picture puzzle with more than three pieces.

    God, please don’t let my son-in-law have to go through that, 2012 griffey shoes with me or the U.S.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.