Monday, April 16, 2012

Public service denouncements

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When a radio or TV station has a time slot that no advertiser wants to buy -- typically in the "backside of the clock" (very early morning) or Sunday -- it runs what are called public service announcements, or PSAs. I sometimes played them during commercial breaks when I worked, in desperation, as a radio announcer for a Santa Fe FM station.


Some PSAs are created as a public service for charities by ad agencies, but often are produced by the government. I happened to have the radio on in my car last Sunday when they ran a block of PSAs. One in particular sticks in my mind.

It opened with a "cute" conversation between a man and his son. That was followed by an announcer reading a script that concluded with something like, "Talk to your kids. It's important to them. If you'd like more information on communicating with your children, call this toll-free number ... ."


Did anyone who had anything to do with this PSA take it seriously? Are there actually people in the government who believe that some jackass will hear it, pull over to the side of the road, and write down the phone number to call for a pamphlet with tips about raising kids?

"Oh my God! I haven't talked with Mikey since ... let's see ... I've been away on his past five birthdays, but it seems like I asked him if he'd fetch the newspaper from the front drive only a few months ago. No, wait, that was the dog. But there was that day we went to the garage workshop and I showed Mikey how to work the power saw, uh, that was Sally come to think of it. 

"Yeah, Mikey's always had trouble communicating, ever since I pushed his head in the bowl of Quaker Oats when he was two years old and mouthing off. Just think, he's now 25! They sure grow up fast these days.

"Anyway, yeah, it's time we had a good mano a mano talk. What'd I do with that phone number, do you suppose they have operators standing by now? I mean, it's Sunday, after all. I'll call for information Monday, they even said it's free, and it's from the U.S. Department of Health, Children's Services, Everybody's Services, Human Rights, Environmental Awareness and Parental Upbringing. Is this a great country or what? Oh, damn it, I'm in a six-day meeting starting Monday, well, next Sunday then."


This morning it was a public service ad on the back of a bus: "Don't shake your baby!" And, you know, feed it and like that. Or if you shake your baby and forget feeding time, at least have a good talk while you're shaking and forgetting. It's never too early to start developing good parenting skills.


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