Viewers of Maryland Public Television may complain about on-air fund-raising drives, but they respond to them.
In its first on-air campaign in a year, MPT received pledges this month of $548,000, an increase of 40 percent over last year and a record amount for an August campaign, officials announced yesterday.
In addition, 7,488 viewers made pledges during the 12-day period that ended Sunday, up 13 percent over last year, according to Michael Styer, MPT's senior vice president for broadcasting.
"People understand that [on-air fund drives] are an important part of fund-raising for public television," he said.
Following last August's on-air campaign, MPT announced it would eliminate the televised appeals, which frequently draw viewer complaints because they delay the scheduled start of shows. Instead, MPT said it would rely on direct mail, telemarketing and short spots between programs to raise money.
But in June, noting viewer support was down while fund-raising expenses were up, MPT said it was reinstituting its three annual on-air drives.
Mr. Styer said part of the increase in pledges could be attributed to the fact that MPT hadn't conducted an on-air drive in 12 months but added that it was nonetheless "very gratifying" that the viewers were supporting public television in the face of a recession and increased programming choices on cable television.
"It certainly is going to help us maintain the level of quality of our programming," he said of the money.
MPT has an annual budget of $22 million, of which about 14 percent, or $3.1 million, comes from membership fees. More than half of that comes from renewals by mail received during non-pledge periods.