RULE 5: Content

All offers on PBS programs must be specifically authorized by the program producer, and the producer should be satisfied that the announcement is consistent in tone and substance with the objective of enhancing the effectiveness and educational value of the program. Announcements must not contain any deceptive, fraudulent, or false information, must not violate any laws or regulations, and must be consistent with the noncommercial character of public television. Any product claims must be substantiated by evidence in the possession of the offeror.

Comment: This rule is designed to maximize the producer's discretion while protecting the consumer, minimizing legal risks to PBS and stations, and preserving the noncommercial character of public television.

Content Guidelines

In order to ensure that offers are perceived by viewers to be in keeping with the noncommercial character of public television,

  1. Overall Tone and Appearance. The overall tone and appearance of the announcement must be informational rather than promotional. Both voice-over delivery and video treatment should be developed with the objective of providing a viewer service, not a commercial sales opportunity.

  2. Audio Treatment. The announcer's delivery should be low-key and consistent with the tone of the program, not fast-paced, shrill, or breathless. Music will be acceptable and should generally be the music from the program or, in the case of soundtrack offers, excerpted from the record or CD offered.

  3. Video Treatment. Visual excerpts from an offer book or video are allowed, provided that they are used for informational purposes. (However, see Point #7 regarding "Host Selling.") The overall presentation and pacing of the offer should be low-key and informative, not promotional. Video unrelated to the offer and its availability is not permitted. The identity of the offeror must be provided in the lower third of the offer message video (e.g., Offer Made by WETA.").

  4. Voice-Over Copy. Repetitious or excessive use of descriptives, superlatives, or other inducements to buy is not allowed. Words or phrases such as "only $19.95," "superbly illustrated," and "exciting collection," and "you won't want to be without" are unacceptable. Factual information may be used to further identify the product (e.g., name of publisher, number of pages, number of color illustrations, etc.). Calls to action, such as "Pick up the phone" and "Call now" are not acceptable. Examples of acceptable language for ordering information in an offer announcement: "To order (name of item), call (phone #), or "You may order (name of item) by calling (phone #)."

  5. Telephone Numbers and Addresses. Whenever a telephone number or an address is included, the number or address should be spoken no more than once and should appear no more than twice in video. The words "toll free" to describe an 800 number are acceptable, but in PBS's view they are unnecessary and may tend to increase the promotional appearance of the offer. Web addresses may not be used.

  6. Credit Cards. References to credit cards must be generic; no specific audio mention or visual display may be made of proprietary names such as "Visa" or "Mastercard." The statement "Credit cards are accepted" is preferred as an alternative to "Have your credit card ready," which may tend to increase the promotional appearance of the offer.

  7. Host Selling. The host or talent of a program may not be used to offer the item. Incidental appearances by the host or talent on the cover of a book or in video excerpts from a cassette offer are permitted.

PBS Review and Approval

Producers must provide PBS with information on the audio and video content of all offer announcements at least eight weeks in advance of the offer airdate. However, earlier notification is strongly encouraged for the convenience of producers and PBS. (See Rules 1 and 2.) PBS will review all materials promptly and will notify offerors of acceptability of offer content. In cases where the content of an offer announcement does not conform to these guidelines, PBS will require changes as appropriate to bring the announcement into compliance.