Broadcast and cable television networks donate an average of 15 seconds an hour to air public service ads (PSAs), representing less than one-half of one percent (0.4 percent) of all airtime. And a significant portion of the donated airtime (43 percent) is during the late night hours between midnight and 6 AM; nine percent is in prime time.
By comparison, 25 percent of airtime is filled with paid advertising and promotions.
More than one in three (37 percent) PSAs that receive donated airtime address a child-related topic, such as children’s health care, parenting, education or mentoring. One out of every four donated PSAs (27 percent) is on a health-related topic.
“Shouting to be Heard: Public Service Advertising in a New Media Age” was released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“PSAs have been critical to groups trying to reach the public on issues from putting on seatbelts to putting out cigarettes,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “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.”
As a result, some public education campaigns are buying ad time rather than relying solely on donated airtime to get their messages heard. The study found that one in three (36 percent) TV spots with public service messages are paid for.
In a companion survey of public service directors at local TV stations, one in three (35 percent) say they are more likely to donate airtime to a group that also buys ads.