Current Online

Spotlight On: fillers for hire

Originally published in Current, Feb. 25, 2002
By Steve Behrens

Like The Visionaries and World Business Review, the little public TV series Spotlight On finds sustenance from people willing to pay for spreading a message.

Its distinct appeal to public TV is that episodes are just two to five minutes long--perfect to fill out odd-length programs. Stations may find themselves inserting Spotlight On in crevices of syndicated programs where overt commercials were removed for syndication to public TV.

Paid promos in public TV's off hours
World Business Review
The Visionaries
Spotlight On

What the FCC rules say
Sponsorship ID rules
Noncommercial station licensing rules

Don Roosa, president of Tower Productions in Manhattan, has made hundreds of the fillers for free distribution to public TV stations since 1985, he says. (For the first year, the topics were limited to books, when the series was called Bookends.)

He guarantees clients 500 airings and says they're generally carried on 150 or more public TV stations.

The Protective Headgear Manufacturers Association paid $27,000 to underwrite its filler promoting the use of bicycle helmets, says Dean Fisher, president. The short featured remarks by a bike safety expert and shots of ambulances rushing to a hospital (presumably bearing unfortunate cyclists without helmets). Fisher says he was especially satisfied with the videotape he still uses to promote helmets.

The topics tend to be "not overly commercial," says one client, because they're meant for public TV. The client, Jim Howard, director of communications for the California Table Grape Commission, says the commission paid for a filler in 1998 about the nutritional value of grapes. He compares the little programs to advertorials published by many magazines and newspapers, adding: "You walk a fine line with things like this."

To Current's home page
Outside link: Website posted by Trivue Entertainment about Spotlight On. Executive Producer Don Roosa said that Trivue produces some episodes of the series, but Roosa's Tower Productions produces most of them..

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