Station programmer asks CPB ombudsman to address Dyer pledge content

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The issue of spirituality in motivational speaker Wayne Dyer’s pledge programming has resurfaced in the latest CPB ombudsman’s column, after the PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler, addressed the topic earlier this month. Getler wrote that he “sensed” that Dyer’s programs violate PBS’s Editorial Standards and Policies to provide “nonsectarian” content.

Aaron Pruitt, director of content at Montana PBS, wrote to Joel Kaplan, CPB ombudsman, to express concern over the lack of discussion of Dyer’s content among pubcasting programmers or development staffers.

“I have been working in public television now for nearly 18 years,” Pruitt writes. “The silence regarding this topic, in these otherwise lively discussion groups, is deafening. It is my opinion that PBS management, station programmers, and pledge professionals are hoping this blows over, and that they can go on merrily airing a program that makes huge money for the system. They do not want to talk about this subject.”

“I have to believe that there are other GMs and public television professionals who agree that airing these Wayne Dyer programs violates our editorial standards,” he continues. “I think they are just afraid to speak up.”

Pruitt told Kaplan he’s been concerned over Dyer’s content since 2004.

Kaplan concludes that “the use of Wayne Dyer in pledge drives or in special programming does not appear to violate any CPB rules or regulations.” However, Kaplan adds, “I do hope that top PBS officials, as well as those running pledge drives throughout the country, will revisit this issue given the consternation it has caused both to a significant number of viewers and at least one local PBS executive.”

Dyer’s pledge programs have long been at the center of controversy over on-air fundraising. In 2002, then-PBS President Pat Mitchell raised ire within the pubcasting system by agreeing with a TV critic that pubTV stations broadcast “shlock” when appealing for viewer contributions; the columnist had called Dyer and financial guru Suze Orman “hucksters” (Current, Jan. 28, 2002). After several high-profile digs at pledge, Mitchell later backed down (Current, Nov. 4, 2002).

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