I love when my local public radio station resorts to naked flattery in its pledge drives. Immediately following a segment this morning on NPR, in which Cokie Roberts used the word “obstreperous,” the local pledge drive host came on and said: “Where else on the radio can you hear the word ‘obstreperous’? Here at WHYY, we don’t insult your intelligence.”
Or, more straightforwardly: “You’re so much smarter and more sophisticated than the riffraff that listens to those other radio stations.”
Not that there’s anything surprising here. They’re just playing to their audience, or their perceived audience—or perhaps just that portion of the audience most likely to break out their wallets. But still, it’s funny how this also feeds into the negative stereotype of the typical public radio listener: essentially an elitist whose progressive, socially conscious views (often on display in the form of bumper stickers on the back of his suitably “green” automobile) are just further evidence (in addition to his master’s degree in corporate handjobbery) of his superiority to others.
The local NPR affiliate in Philly, WHYY, is in the midst of one of its annual pledge drives, and this morning its main pitch man, a pompous twit whose affected highbrow manner of speaking arouses a powerful urge to drag him to the nearest high school and stuff him in a locker (after dumping his backpack and stealing his lunch money, of course) was going on about how “you, the listener” are responsible for financing the station and how they’re able to bring us the high-quality programming they do because they’re not beholden to the commercial interests that other stations are.
Then, I swear less than two minutes later, the other pitch person said something about how they’re probably going to get less money from the federal government (not a “commercial” interest, true, but certainly a pretty big interest nevertheless, wouldn’t you say?) this year, so listener pledges are even more important than usual; and this was followed by a spot for a local hospital that specializes in cancer care. So, for shits and giggles, I went onto the station’s website and, sure enough, there’s a page dedicated entirely to soliciting corporate “underwriters.”
Well, gee whiz, and all along I was wondering why their programming is basically no different than the so-called commercial media outlets.