Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Roanoke Public TV Fundraiser Is Insulting and Vacant

It continues as a source of astonishment that Blue Ridge Public Television in Roanoke continues to use lowbrow elevator music, the Civil War, faux Celtic women, do-wop singers with walkers and every other gimmick that appeals to the elderly to raise money.

Tonight's star is a piano player named Yani and his wind machine who plays music that is so boring and without character that it doesn't rise to the level of the elevator. It is pre-packaged, homogenized music performed by Ken and Barbi dolls and watched by what appears to be an audience recruited from one of those Texas Baptist mega-churches. It's all there but the vacant eyes and the waving arms.

What has been abandoned in this process of catering to those with no taste--but a lot of money--is common sense and programming that is often quite good. This is a blatant case of kissing the ass of the old and infirm to shake loose a few more shekels, and it's embarrassing. WBRA does not need to sink to this level in order to raise money and by doing this, it is abandoning anybody with so much as a modicom of taste or who is below the age of 75 in order to milk just a smidge more moolah.

Mill Mountain Theatre discovered the results of leaning too heavily on an audience that would be dead in the next few years. Its constant run of bad musicals and familiar--but bornig--Broadway fare left it unable to navigate rough waters when its primary benefactor (Marian Via) died and her sons had no interest in sharing their inheritance with theater, which I'm sure they consider to be a bastion of liberals.

WBRA has consistently bumped its entire lineup for this embarrassing pap and it loses younger people permanently after wooing them with good shows like "History Detectives," "Frontline," "NOVA" and "Antiques Road Show."

By contrast, WVTF Public Radio, which is also running its spring fundraiser simultaneously, continues its regular  programming and interrupts on occasion (and not for long) by asking for donations. I'm not aware of it ever failing to reach its goal within the allotted time and I know its goal continues to increase because of the loss of government support. I don't know anybody who gets mad at WVTF during its fund-raisers. I know few who don't scream at the TV when Blue Ridge Public TV interrupts programming they like for this crap.

Julie Newman
My guess is that if BR Public TV'd simply have its very best public face, Julie Newman, make a 30-second pitch between normal programs, it'd be just as successful from the financial end without annoying the hell out of a lot of us. She's smart, lovely, talented and would make a perfect representation of the face of an audience they want.

Reality rules, though and you gotta wonder if they wouldn't have a Lawrence Welk performing if he were still around to do it. Some day, we all hope, they'll learn. Maybe before they go off the air.


  1. Well as far as I know, Lawrence Welk is weekly fare on BR PBS, but I totally agree with you, Dan, and I have wondered the same thing for years. Why do they depart so drastically from their usual programming during beg week(s), month(s), whatever it is.

  2. It's not quite applicable, but WTJU in Charlottesville has a cool form of fund-raising. Four times a year they take one week and program one genre 24-7. For me, the Rock Marathon is like a vacation and builds up my loyalty to the station. For years I thought I did not like that strategy, but I've reconsidered.

    I don't know if public television could or should do something similar, but I would get a kick if they tried something ambitious that appealed to anyone younger than 65.

  3. The problem we're all experiencing with this, I suspect, is that there is an acceptable level of success achieved with what they're doing (which says very, very little for the taste of the average viewer), but the bigger problem is that those givers are older than god and they'll die soon.

  4. Well, Marion Via was a great boon to this large geographical area in so many ways. The Roanoke Symphony, Milli Mountain Theater, Opera Roanke, WVTF, WBRA, and so many organizations would not even exist if if she hadn't had the vision and interest to make them viable. She had the resources to do it and she did it every year until she died. But, her intent was to provide leadership to success, not endowment. When she died, she expected that others would fill the gap, not expect that she would somehow continue to fund the show. And, she didn't - I think really couldn't because of the way the legal structures were set up - but, whatever. I think her intent was to support these things so we would see the value to our community and then take up the mantle when she was gone. Her family didn't, but the community really didn't completely either. So, MMT folds. Terrible. Point being, what we value here is our responsibility and we need to insure it is fiscally viable. Otherwise it will be lost and probably long lost.