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Time is limited for public service ads

Monday, March 11, 2002

The Associated Press

Television networks donate an average of 15 seconds per hour for public service advertisements, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Less than one-tenth of those ads come during prime-time. Nearly half of the time networks turn over to public service ads -- 43 percent -- come between midnight and 6 a.m., according to the study.

It was the first look at the issue by the foundation, which often studies health-care issues, so it had no past figures to compare with. There have been some complaints that networks aren't doing enough.

"Whether you think the time donated to PSAs is a lot or a little to expect from the television industry, it's definitely an uphill struggle to reach the public and have an impact with the amount of time available," said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Foundation.

Some high-profile campaigns, like anti-drugs or anti-smoking, have taken to simply buying advertising time from the networks. Thirty-five percent of ads with a public service message on TV stations are in fact paid for, the report said.

In a survey taken of 513 public service directors at television stations across the country, one in three said they were more likely to donate air time to groups that buy ads, Kaiser said.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, which donate an average of 17 seconds per hour to PSAs, do better than cable networks, Kaiser said. CNN, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon and TNT set aside seven seconds per hour.

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