Membership FAQ

How many people support public television?

Nearly 5 million individuals from the U.S. and neighboring countries voluntarily contribute dollars to their local public TV station. Many also volunteer their time in support of their local station’s community outreach efforts.

Why is public television worthy of support?

Though cable television has been around for many years, 30% of the American population still does not receive cable TV—either because they do not have access to it or because they choose not to subscribe to it. And cable is not free. It costs the average household $386 per year. PBS is available free of charge to virtually everyone with a television set.

The bigger reason, though, is that cable networks, like commercial broadcasters, must be market-driven to remain in business. If a cable or broadcast network is not financially profitable, it will cease to exist. It’s that simple.

Public television, by contrast, is a mission-driven educational service that does not have to operate under a mandate of commercial obligations and marketplace pressures.

Cable and commercial broadcast networks might find it difficult to make any profits from providing an educational enterprise like public television. If there were profits to be made, commercial broadcasters would already be engaging in such ventures. In fact, several notable public television programs were initially rejected by other networks because they didn’t have a broad enough appeal or commercial viability. (Would you believe that Barney & Friends and Sesame Street were among those programs?)

Many public television series or special programs have helped create “niche” programming on other channels. Did you know that PBS was the first to televise congressional hearings—back in the Watergate days? Or that PBS was the first to broadcast tennis on television—long before it was popular enough to make it on commercial networks? Or that PBS was the first to offer cooking programs and other “how-to” series like This Old House and Hometime? Public television also led the way in such technical innovations as closed-captioning and descriptive video that make programming more accessible to all.

Your support of public television allows us to continue to be the “first” with other types of programs and services—to take risks and bring you new types of programs that other broadcasters won’t offer.

What does my donation to KET support?

Your gift makes it possible for KET to bring unique, thought-provoking, and entertaining programming to nearly every household across Kentucky. Each year, KET spends around $2 million to bring you the high-quality programming from PBS. In addition, we produce ongoing series highlighting Kentucky people, places, history, arts, culture, and public issues—Kentucky Life, Kentucky Tonight, Jubilee, Comment on Kentucky, bookclub@ket, Connections with Renee Shaw, and One to One—as well as multi-part specials like Kentucky Muse, Electronic Field Trips for K-12 students, documentaries like Louisville: 30 Years of Change, and call-in programs to keep you informed on a variety of subjects. The main source of funding for all of those programs and productions is private donations.

Why do you run all those pledge drives?

We realize that our on-air pledge drives are sometimes inconvenient for our viewers. That’s why we take steps to alert our viewers and members in advance of the on-air pledge campaigns.

Frankly, on-air pledge drives offer the best, most straightforward way for us to communicate directly with our viewers—especially those people who watch but don’t support. Public television stations do use other means of fund-raising, like direct mail and telemarketing, but our on-air drives continue to be the most successful way for us to reach new supporters.

Public television nationwide devotes less than 2% of its airtime to on-air pledge drives. That’s not a lot of time when you consider the fact that, according to industry sources, commercial television spends nearly 20% of its broadcast time airing commercials.

We pay close attention to feedback from our viewers and members, and we believe that most of our viewers understand the need for on-air fund-raising. Through nationwide surveys of public television viewers, PBS has found that the great majority of viewers say that on-air appeals are a fair exchange for the quality programming they see on the air the other 98% percent of the time.

We also continually try to improve the quality of our on-air pledge drives so that they offer minimum disruption to your viewing pleasure.

Don’t I already support KET with my tax dollars?

American taxpayers contribute an average of $1.09 annually (less than the cost of a Sunday newspaper) toward funding public television. Federal funding is vital to public television—it provides a strong base of financial footing for our enterprise. But for each dollar received from federal funds, public television stations match it with five dollars from individual and private supporters.

The state of Kentucky also provides substantial funding for KET, but those state funds are dedicated for specific things: instructional programs distributed via satellite and digital broadcast to Kentucky schools; programs which dispense vital information statewide; staff members to produce, purchase, and broadcast those programs; and the physical plant and signal delivery systems. This means that the majority of funding for the programs KET brings into your home must come from viewers like you.

What will I get in return for my gift?

Along with the personal satisfaction of knowing that you have helped keep your favorite programs on the air, KET also offers a variety of benefits, depending on the level of your support. You can read more about these benefits on the pages about the KET Family Fun Club, the KET MemberCard, annual major support, and on-air sponsorship.

Can my gift be designated?

Yes. A variety of programs and services at KET need your support. If you would like your gift to be designated to a specific fund, call us at 1-800-866-0366 and will be happy to help you.

Can I get my employer to match my gift?

Many employers do match contributions to charitable organizations, and KET participates in most of these programs. For more information on matching gifts, please contact us at 1-800-866-0366.

Is my contribution tax-deductible?

Your contributions to KET are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. Occasionally, the amount of a contribution that is tax-deductible will be reduced because of the fair-market value of a premium received as a thank-you for a donation (such as a coffee mug, tote bag, CD, or video). KET sends out a notification with all of this information every time a gift is made and an annual summary receipt listing the total tax-deductible amount of all gifts received during the year.

When should my thank-you gift arrive?

In most cases, if the item is already at our facilities, you will receive your gift within two weeks of the time we receive payment for your donation. In cases when we have to special-order an item (which we do sometimes during pledge drives), it may take longer. Call 1-800-866-0366 for further information on thank-you gifts.

Does KET exchange its donor lists?

No. KET does not exchange or release any information regarding our donors and sponsors. We have also taken extraordinary measures to ensure that information you provide while making an online pledge is completely secure. See our online security notice for more information.

When will my membership be due for renewal?

Each KET member has an individualized member year that is usually based on the date of the first gift. Your member year begins on the 1st of the month in which you began your membership. The renewal date would change only if you allow more than 15 months to elapse between renewals.

If you receive a renewal notice before your member year is up, that is because we generally send out notices a couple of months early in order to allow you plenty of response time to keep your benefits current. But even if you renew your membership early, your membership year remains the same.

If you have questions regarding your membership or would like to receive only one renewal notice, please call us at 1-800-866-0366.

What should I do if I move or change addresses?

It would be helpful if you would complete a change-of-address form online. Your mail from KET, including the magazine and program guide, should be forwarded on by the postal service, but the notice from you helps us keep your records up to date. You may also call our Donor Relations Coordinator at 1-800-866-0366 to notify us of an address change.

Can I take a tour of the KET facilities and studios?

Yes—we welcome visitors! If you’re going to be in Lexington, we invite you to take a tour of the station. We would love to have the opportunity to meet you and thank you in person and to give you an inside look at how your public television network operates. Please call us at 1-800-866-0366 to plan your visit and make arrangements for a full studio and technical tour.