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Supporting Public Television - Easier Than It Looks
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So, the pledge drive was quite a bit of fun. I wasn't entirely sure that it would be - I really don't like telephones, and wasn't sure that sitting and answering them all night wouldn't be more stressful than it was worth. There are, after all, other ways of supporting your local public television station.

But being a pledge drive volunteer is pretty simple. You show up, and sign a couple of forms. They feed you dinner. (We had food provided by La Bodeguita del Medio! I'd been expecting nothing more glamorous than pizza.) They run through the phone script and how to deal with the various pledge options. Then you go into the studio, and answer phones for 10 to 15 minutes. When the pledge break is over, you go back to the break room and drink coffee and chat until a few minutes before the next pledge break, when you go back into the studio and do it all again.

In all my life as a PBS viewer, I always thought that the pledge volunteers sat in the studio between pledge breaks, while the program was running, continuing to take calls. They don't - at least not at KTEH. Apparently hardly anybody ever calls when the phone number isn't printed on the screen. Such is short term memory, I suppose.

It was nice to get to chat with my fellow Legion of Rassilon members. Even though I've been to several meetings, we all spent most of that time with our eyes glued to a screen, watching Doctor Who. So it was nice to get to know some folks better, and to be able to discuss truly important questions like which Doctor is the best one, and where the best online source for toy sonic screwdrivers is.

Along with the Legion of Rassilon, the phone banks were manned by the local alumni of Cambridge University. I'm not sure quite what they made of all of us.

The best costume of the evening award probably has to go to Merv, with his Tenth Doctor outfit. Although considering that KTEH hasn't aired any Tenth Doctor episodes, I don't know how many viewers appreciated it. We also had a lady in quite impressive Victorian garb. I am pleased to report that my Union Jack T-shirt looks great on television. (There are few places outside of a Doctor Who pledge drive or a Def Leppard concert where one can unselfconsciously wear a Union Jack T-shirt. So you have to take your opportunities when they arise.)

I don't really know how we did in terms of fundraising. The phones weren't exactly ringing off the hook, and the second-to-last pledge break was nearly silent. But I don't know what a typical pledge break during this pledge period is like. It was a bit disappointing - I think all of us in the Legion of Rassilon would have liked for the show to be a runaway hit for PBS. Regardless of whether or not it's realistic. (The 2005 season, which KTEH is currently airing, has aired and is continuing to air off and on in repeats on both the SciFi Channel and BBC America, and is available on DVD. There is an argument to be made that it doesn't need to be on PBS at this point - that people have had plenty of other opportunities to see it. But that's why it's viewer supported television - if the viewers don't support it, they'll stop airing it.)

A lot of the people that I talked to made a special point of mentioning how much they love PBS, or love Doctor Who. (I even took a pledge from a guy who doesn't live in KTEH's broadcast area, not by a long shot, but happened to catch our pledge drive while he was visiting family in the area, and wanted to donate just because he loves Doctor Who.) If you have doubts about whether public television still fills a need, in this age of cable, DVDs, DVRs, internet video, and everything else, the answer is yes. That made me feel good.

And we got some questions from callers about the Legion of Rassilon, so we may have recruited a few new members.

To sum up. It was fun. I'd do it again. I hope I'll get to do it again for Doctor Who.

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