Springtime: Season of Prom, Playoffs and PSAs


Ah, springtime. As the middle of June approaches, this year’s proms are now a recent memory, and the NBA and NHL will soon close up shop for the summer. Besides these signs of approaching warm weather, there is one more springtime tradition that makes its way into our radios and televisions just before Memorial Day: public service announcements.

One of the observations that I’d made while listening to overnight AM radio in the nineties is that there are more than the usual number of public service announcements when most listeners are asleep; this probably has to do with advertising rates being cheaper. Therefore, radio stations could cram in a certain number of PSAs within a broadcast day, without sacrificing more prime advertising spots than necessary. Unfortunately, this practice is put on hold as soon as people start buying charcoal for the first barbecues of the year.

If the nanny state has a voice, it is the public service announcement.

The sound of some authoritarian, socially holier-than-thou announcer lecturing his or her audience about some message regarding either seat belt use or drinking – messages that are ignored by their intended audiences, yet irritate everyone else – end up cutting through some of us like a rusty butter knife.

The basic premise of a typical PSA is that the members of the viewing or listening audience cannot make responsible decisions without being told to do so. In other words, everyone needs some type of parental supervision from some type of government or community group.

Remember the anti-drug PSAs from the eighties? When they were popular, I had read an interesting commentary about the mentality behind those messages. In brief, the author stated that the people who wrote those spots talked down to the young adults whom those commercials were aimed at, while treating parents as too incompetent to raise their own children. In fact, I’d heard an anti-drug PSA on Sirius a few months ago that featured a supposed mother who was trying to rap about the dangers of drugs to her child. At the end of the commercial, an announcer had said something along the lines of “having a professional talk to your child about the dangers of drugs.”

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