Public Broadcasting

(Update:  My more recent attempts to use Visa Gift Cards online have been unsuccessful, and I warn others not to buy the cards for that purpose.) 

Do you support noncommercial radio or TV programming?  By “support,” I mean listen, watch and pledge money.

I’m on a fixed income, and can’t usually afford a membership. However, periodically I buy a disposable Visa Gift Card and use it to pledge ten dollars here and there to radio stations I enjoy.  Ten dollars is a good minimum to offset overhead costs because the payee must spend money to complete the transaction.

We pay a few dollars as an activation fee every time we buy one of those cards.  However, we can think of that as an investment.  A  gift card which is exhausted within a few weeks isn’t likely to have its number stolen while you’re still using it.

You can also shop online with the card, as long as your payment is credited in the U.S.  A few years ago, Congress passed a law disqualifying ersatz Visa/MasterCard/American Express cards for international transactions.  They’re no good for automatic recurring payments, either.

When the balance on a card drops to a small, odd amount — $1.37, for example — some brick and mortar stores will allow you to use the card + cash to pay for merchandise.  If you know what you’re doing and everything goes as planned, you can use every bit of the card except the squeal.

Consumer reviews of the cards aren’t good.  I speak only for myself when I say I’ve had no trouble.  Still, whenever I buy a new card there’s always an imaginary creature sitting on my shoulder, reminding me not to load too much money on it.

“Safety first,” the creature says.  Then the store clerk reminds me the card is nonrefundable.

Back to public broadcasting…

Last week, I made one of my ten dollar contributions to a station in New Jersey.  WFMU has several online streams in addition to its FM programming.

You need an internet connection (or maybe a satellite radio) if you’re going to hear much decent stuff because local markets are losing good “terrestrial” radio stations.  Often, commercial stations that don’t go off the air are bought by large broadcasting chains.  Then the formats are converted to the most sterile crap possible.

I’ve spent my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can remember the summer of 1974.  KSFO, a commercial AM station very low on the dial, aired reruns of old radio programs which my parents remembered from their childhood.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows.

I also got to hear the crashing sound when Fibber McGee opened his closet.

Old radio shows may have been the only things I enjoyed hearing on KSFO.  The station wasn’t much during the 1970s, and now it’s dedicated to reactionary right wing horseshit.  It’s the Bay Area’s dubious breath of fresh air for people who think Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have all the answers.

T’aint funny, McGee.

At one time, it was relatively easy to find original programming on (some) stations which aired commercials.  Now it’s practically impossible.

Noncommercial stations need listener/viewer support to stay on the air.  Please think of this when you enjoy PBS, NPR or your favorite jazz/classical/alternative music station.

Comedian Dave Hill hosts his Monday night WFMU show without salary.  Considering the effort made by people who work hard to keep unique stuff on the air, the least we can do is pay something for the privilege of not hearing Flo from Progressive.

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