What about on-air promos or interstitial content? Can I feature an underwriter on these or other on-air assets?
PBS does not feature underwriters on national tune-in, image or other promotional spots, lest they take away from the primary respective purposes of these on-air assets, which are to promote viewership and/or PBS brand value. As such, there are no specific national guidelines for this practice. Similarly, any PBS interstitial content—defined as short-form programming/content usually shown between regular programming –does not feature underwriters expressly, except for the extent to which such interstitials are aired as “filler” content as part of an overall program package, and within the standard programming and underwriting pod (e.g. Behind The Scenes content attached to an episode of CALL THE MIDWIFE, or a preview of the next Ken Burns documentary attached to a current affinity history program).
Quite a few stations have chosen to align their local underwriters with on-air promotional assets and interstitial content however, and guidelines and practices for this vary from station to station. While some stations have included sponsor mentions in promotional spots, this is usually in relation to spots promoting station community events and/or local content (vs national), and is typically in fonting only, and at the end of the spot. The practice is perhaps more common when it comes to interstitial content, as the idea of funding interstitial content is perhaps more naturally analogous to traditional underwriting, with consideration received for a specific piece or block of broadcast content.
Some stations have used interstitial content to align certain aspects of the station’s existing mission with specific causes important to their underwriters (e.g. early childhood education tips and Local Bank, health/wellness tips and Local Children’s Hospital) and to either introduce or upsell those underwriters to other affinity programs offered by the station. For interstitial underwriting messages, like with other public television underwriting creative, the same editorial perception and commercialism tests come into play, as does the proportion of the length of the underwriting mention to the length of the interstitial content. It may be a funding preamble is more suited to interstitial sponsorship than a separate message, e.g. “Local Bank, proud to bring you financial literacy tips on WXYZ.”