Oh thank the free world!

Vermont Public Radio’s most recent pledge drive is finally over. What was originally scheduled to last 10 days was shortened to just seven because you (the listeners) reacted and donated over $500,000 three days ahead of schedule. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you. Seven days felt more like seven weeks. Nothing but non-stop soliciting over the course of a week is enough to make you wonder, is it really worth it? Maybe VPR should just let aggressive advertising in and leave us alone?

Public radio is based on listener supported funding with just 10 percent of its funding coming from the federal government. There are no obnoxious ads that you find on other stations, just a short mention of what corporations have contributed.

For the most part it’s fantastic. VPR does an amazing job with its programming. They offer a variety of topics and report clean concise journalism that is a joy to listen to.

Then comes the pledge drives – three times a year – 21 days of guilt-ridden listening.

They’re good too. The man and woman team conducting the drive could make an Ethiopian feel guilty for eating.

They use phrases such as, “you’ve listened all year, now its time to give back,” or “help keep the station you depend on each day running, with your contribution.”

No other station asks you for money to run their operation. But the pledge captains on VPR stated that the average donation is about $100!

Imagine how you would react if EQX, or FLY92 asked for a hundred bucks? It’s ridiculous to even think of, yet VPR managed to solicit over $500,000 from its listeners in just seven days.

One way the pledge captains were able to inject guilt to its listeners was to compare donating to VPR and your electric bill. They stated that you pay money to the electric company and in return you get electricity, but VPR allows you to listen then decide if you would like to contribute.

If any of us had electric companies lined up on our dial offering free service it’s hard to imagine anyone would pay. But yet we do – $500,000 to be exact.

Let’s be completely honest here. The service that VPR offers is unparalleled. However, would commercials make it much different?

Public radio accepts money from corporations and in turn plugs them on the air discreetly. Just for reference, Wal-Mart is one of the biggest contributors to public radio in the country. Also with services like XM and Sirius satellite radio, which charge about 12 bucks a month for well over 100 channels to listen to, is the $100 donation worth the one channel?

It’s hard to say, although you do receive a gift if you donate. For $52 you can opt for a one-year subscription to Newsweek – which has no political slant, whatsoever. Or perhaps you would like a coffee mug for $80 or a fleece blanket for a $365 donation.

Be warned though, once you make your donation, they ask “would you like a gift for your contribution or would you like the entire amount to be donated to VPR?” Just a bit more guilt needed, I guess.

But at least it’s over – for now. And we can all go back to listening to whatever it is that we love the most about VPR. But the question remains, should free radio make you feel guilty for listening?

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