PBS Pledge drives have never been enjoyable. The programming has tended to repetition of a few programs popular with the pledging demographic. For several years, 60′s folk and 70′s rock concerts were popular, but in the last year or two, the trend has been to lectures by New Age gurus – Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Suze Ormond, and Bill Moyers’s interview with Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth.” I have seen this programming on cable feeds of PBS stations from several different parts of the US, and I am assuming it is prevalent.
I’m intrigued by the presumed popularity of this programming with a well-educated and literate demographic base. While the Campbell interviews are challenging and stimulating, even though Campbell was a very idiosyncratic student of comparitive religion, the other shows are more like television evangelism. The speakers are good-looking, passionate and engaging. It’s a good show if you understand the language and share the values. Otherwise it sounds like a lot of jargon. In fact when I listen to these speakers, I get the idea that they are making some spooky claims about mystical teachings and paranormal powers by distorting ordinary language. For instance when Dyer talks about the power of “intention” he seems to be talking about either prayer, or magic.
I wouldn’t describe this programming as informative or educational except that it shows culture in action.
I suppose that if somebody complained that PBS was promoting religion, they would say that the New Age is not a religion and their speakers are just lecturing on self-improvement, personal growth, and spirituality. It seems to me that this is basically religious programming for viewers with New Age beliefs and values – people who think that their private “spirituality” is different from, and preferable to other people’s “religious” values and observance.
To be less polite about it, this programming suggests that the PBS audience is like granola – it’s full of fruits and nuts.