PBS's latest commercial tie-in: hawking coffee

By Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Herald

PBS is getting roasted for a product deal it’s signed with Vermont’s Green Mountain Coffee.

The nonprofit public television company and the publicly traded Green Mountain announced yesterday that a new “PBS Blend” organic coffee will be sold to raise funds for PBS programming and educational services.

Described as a “balanced and smooth” coffee, the “PBS Blend” is the first non-media “products proceeds” deal signed by PBS - and the television corporation intends to venture even more into the lending of its brand name to products in order to raise money for its member stations. Revenue

details of the Green Mountain deal were not disclosed.

But the Center for Digital Democracy’s Jeff Chester questioned the revenue-sharing arrangement with a for-profit company, saying it pushes PBS toward more commercialization and away from its media-focused mission.

“PBS should ‘smell the coffee’ and realize that such for-profit ventures threaten to undermine the rationale for taxpayer support,” said Chester. “Why should the public fund a TV network which is just another competitor to Starbucks?”

A spokeswoman for PBS countered, “We’re definitely not becoming another Starbucks. We’re not moving away from our mission.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., have encouraged PBS, which receives federal funds via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to find creative ways to raise funds, said spokeswoman Stephanie Aaronson.

PBS has long sold DVDs and videos of its more popular programs, raising extra funds for its operations and stations, in addition to its government and charitable grants. Increasingly, PBS has also been running very brief ads at the start and end of shows, a move that has drawn fire from PBS no-commercial purists.

The “PBS Blend” won’t be sold in retail stores. But it will be available over the Web or through Green Mountain catalogs, with consumers choosing between 10-ounce packages of “PBS Blend” or single-serve packets to be used with Green Mountain’s Keurig Single-Cup brewers, often used at home or in offices.

article originally published at http://business.bostonherald.com/businessNews/view.bg?articleid=171026.

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