Communications Daily [Aug. 29, 2006. subscription required] reports that PBS plans to â€œrevise its website as early as today (Tues.) to explain “sponsored links.” The Daily quotes PBS VP Lea Sloan saying that â€œwe agree there could be more precision in describing what happens to users when they leave the PBS site and are looking into how best to articulate that.”
In a letter I wrote last week to the PBS ombudsman Michael Getler on behalf of the Center for Digital Democracy, we asked for an investigation into how users of the site are having data collected about them from third parties (including the placement of cookies). The letter said that such undisclosed data-collection via the PBS site was a â€˜deceptiveâ€ practice. We have not yet heard from Mr. Getler.
But while we are gratified that PBS is listening (after a series of stories in newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and complaints from advocates), we are not satisfied. PBS should not be engaged in any interactive advertisingâ€”on its website, via its digital broadcast airwaves, or by any method (such as wireless). PBS must not be allowed to become an digital ad-addicted junkie. It should offer the public a totally commercial-free environment as it enters the broadband communications era. We hope that Congress will consider legislation restricting PBS, NPR and other federally supported public broadcasting entities from running any ads at allâ€”including interactive outlets.
We believe that PBS’s future more fruitfully lies in building up a site that users will financially support–grateful that it will be one of the few places on the planet where they aren’t the target of personalized interactive marketing.