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IN THE SPOTLIGHT

August 17, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG

PLEDGE DRIVE--Ouch! It's that time again.

KCET's first subscription campaign of the fiscal year is under way, a nine-day fund-raiser which the station euphemistically titles a "Vacation From Ordinary TV" and which continues through next Sunday. Likewise, KOCE Channel 50 in Orange County and KPBS Channel 15 in San Diego are on the air with summer subscription-drive programming this week.

Many viewers no doubt would love to see KCET take a pledge--to abolish hat-in-hand, guilt-tripping on-air pledge drives, as some other public-TV stations have done by replacing TV pitches with telephone or mail solicitations. Fat chance, though.

KCET, which seems to have rebounded from its financial horrors of a few years ago, isn't about to give up a good thing. Its on-air pledge drives generally have yielded higher and higher results, peaking at more than $1.8 million in March, 1985, and earning only a little less than that a year later. In addition, the TV pitches inevitably add subscribers to the rolls, and subscriptions account for 60% of the KCET operating budget.

The station has been so successful, moreover, that it's now regarded by the rest of the public-TV family as having fund-raising campaigns that are state of the art. Not electrifying viewing, but apparently very effective.

What viewers won't get on Channel 28 and the others this week is state-of-the-art programming. Time was when PBS stations tried to make on-air fund-raisers more palatable by juicing up their regular schedules with blue-chip special programs. These lured viewers into the tent despite the presence of often-abrasive fund-raising interruptions.

KCET has added programs this week, all right. A glance at its schedule, though, produces far more feelings of deja vu than of exhilaration and anticipation. You have the feeling that you've seen these programs before--and you probably have.

The pledge period includes 23 of what KCET calls its "most cherished" music and nature programs. (Samples: "National Geographic: The Land of the Tiger," "G.I. Jive," "Gala of Stars.") Topping those are repeats of "The French Chef"--the original Julia Child cooking series--that first aired from 1970-73. Two of these half-hours will air from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting with brochettes, kebab and skewers, followed by fruit tarts.

Bring back ordinary TV.

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