While TV ads are a core component of PSAs, a new study by Kaiser Family Foundation found that broadcast and cable stations in the study donated an average of 17 seconds an hour to PSAs--totaling one-half of 1% of all TV air time.
Worse, PSAs most frequently run between midnight and 6 a.m., accounting for 46% of donated PSAs across all stations in the study. On broadcast stations alone, 60% of donated PSAs ran overnight. The time period with the fewest donated PSAs was prime time (8-11 p.m.), with 13% of all donated PSAs.
"PSAs can be an important tool, but they have to be seen to be effective," said Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of Kaiser's Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health. She worries that visibility is "a daunting task."
The issues donated PSAs addressed were health (26%), such as childhood obesity and cancer, fund raising (23%), family and social concerns (12%), such as drunk driving, community organizations or events (8%) and volunteerism (6%). The study also found that paid ads increased from 11:45 minutes of ads per hour to 12:25 minutes.