Media Top $1B in PSA Time

In 2003, media companies donated more than $1.3 billion in time and space to public-service campaigns produced by The Ad Council. According to the council, that made it the seventh-largest advertiser in the U.S.

Radio was the largest contributor at $578.4 million, up 5%. Broadcast and cable TV were second at $364 million, but that was down 14% from 2002. The Council was attributing the drop to a down economy and reduction in ONDCP's Media Match program. The House cut funding to ONDCP's anti-drug PSA effort in August 2002 after ad agency O&M settled out of court a suit alleging accounting irregularities and overcharges involving the campaign.

The Ad Council also says that, in a break with tradition, it has actively sought out $250 million in upfront money for 2004 from a host of companies including ABC, Cox, Comcast, Hearst-Argyle, Meredith, Time Warner, Bloomberg, and Rainbow Media.

The move is part of a new strategy to line up money beforehand rather than produce the campaigns and then seek out the media support.

The Homeland Security Department's campaign on terrorism preparedness got by far the biggest chunk of 2003 donated time and space at $225.7 million, followed by the Army's high school dropout prevention campaign ($68.8 million), ONDCP's drug prevention campaign ($64.8 million); paternal involvement PSA's from the National Fatherhood Initiative ($51.5 million), and Environmental Defense's conservation campaign ($44.4 million).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.