Extinguishing my Campfires and Other Important Messages from Washington

I listen to the radio nearly every day — driving to and from work, on errands around town and while walking my dog. I usually am able to tune out the advertising, but lately I’ve noticed an awful lot of public service announcements, presumably funded by taxpayers.

Being mindful of the budget deficit and the need to eliminate wasteful spending, I’m surprised by the growing frequency of these ads. Why is the government spending precious tax dollars creating and broadcasting messages on topics like: the importance of seat belt use; which light bulbs to use; and remembering to get a flu shot?

It seems like the majority of advertisements are brought to us by the Ad Council. I decided to conduct a test. I recorded one-hour of radio programming to measure the amount of State-Run advertising. My choice was WLS Chicago’s Don Wade and Roma Show. The following is a listing of ads occurring at least once during my one-hour experiment.

  1. Drunk Driving Prevention (0:30) – Squirrel (68 Kb)
    Two Girls explain their ride home after getting buzzed. One took a cab, which swerved to miss a squirrel and nearly hit a man. The other drove herself, missed the squirrel but hit the man. She wishes she’d taken a cab. Brought to us by US Department of Transportation and the Ad Council.
  2. Emergency Preparedness (0:30) – World Upside Down (39 Kb)
    This spot suggests you visit ready.gov to become informed and prepare for a disaster before it happens. Brought to us by Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Ad Council. This ad played twice during the one hour period.
  3. Patient Involvement (0:30) – Questioners (72 Kb)
    This one gets a lot of Play. All kinds of people asking everyday questions — but not at the doctors office. We are directed to go to ahrq.gov to learn ten questions to ask our doctor. It played two times during my test. Brought to us by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Ad Council.
  4. Emergency Preparedness (0:30) – World for Granted (60 Kb)
    Very similar to the other ad for ready.gov. This one also repeated during the hour. FEMA must have found some money in their sock drawer!
  5. Drunk Driving Prevention (0:30) – RADD (63 Kb)
    Mark Anthony does a wonderful job narrating this ad, but I haven’t a clue who he is. Had they used someone more famous, it might have cost us yet more — so I’m not entirely unhappy with this one.
  6. Hands Only CPR (0:30) – Sound of Hands (63 Kb)
    Hands can do incredible things. After calling 911, use your hands to save a life. My hand nearly turned off the radio at this point!
  7. Disability Awareness (1:00) Can Do – (120 Kb)
    President Obama’s reads this one … a celebration of 20 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He urges everyone to visit disability.gov. This was the only 60 second ad during the hour program. Certainly no one would argue about the importance of this message. (Tongue in cheek)
  8. Booster Seat Education (0:30) Bibbidi – (63 Kb)
    Another often played spot from the US Transportation Department for all citizens shorter than 4’9″. You must sit in a booster seat or face severe criminal penalties.
  9. Lead Poisoning Prevention (0:30) Rage – (66 Kb)
    If your house was built prior to 1978, there is a good reason your child can’t read. Blame it on lead paint. EPA, HUD and the Ad Council are responsible for this message. Ran twice during my experiment.
  10. Men’s Preventive Health (0:30) Real Men Wear Gowns – (65 Kb)
    You’ve probably heard this one before. It has been playing for a year or more. The boxing champ knocks out his opponent wearing an examination gown, because it is important for him to get preventive tests. This spot is from Health and Human Services Department and repeated again later in the hour.
  11. Drunk Driving Prevention (0:30) Emergency Room – (64 Kb)
    The boyfriend driver rationalizes to the emergency room doctor that he was just buzzed.
    Its from Ray LaHood and the hard-working people at the Transportation Department.
  12. Hands Only CPR (0:30) Hands Symphony – (64 Kb)
    Similar to the above referenced PSA for Hands Only CPR. It begins with a musical number generated entirely by hand sounds. Not a very creative ad, if you ask me — but I’ll bet most people aren’t going to miss mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

In conclusion, Don and Roma were actually on the air for 37 minutes. News, Traffic and Weather took another 9 minutes. Advertising made up the balance of 14 minutes. Nineteen nanny-state advertisements accounted for 10 minutes of the advertising. Free market advertisements consumed only 4 minutes. It’s Unbelievable!

Here is the entire Program – WLS Dec_17_01.mp3