What is the approval process for national underwriters?

Creating a sponsor message that satisfies PBS program underwriting guidelines is best accomplished with close, clear, and constant communication with PBS.  We sometimes have to stress to the uninitiated that the PBS Program Underwriting Policy office, which acts in some ways like Standards and Practices departments at networks, must approve all funders and sponsor messages in advance.  Ideally, the approval process should begin as early as four months prior to the original broadcast date. Here are some helpful tips for national sponsors beginning the underwriting process with PBS:

  • Have a thorough, detailed discussion of creative possibilities and potential issues with your PBS representative as early as possible.

Good communication, from the very beginning, will ensure that the process works smoothly and avoids painful (and costly) revisions of produced work.  Begin a dialogue about your creative early in the process and ask questions or raise issues as often as necessary.

  • Be prepared to deliver your spot by the deadline.

In most cases, the PBS national program packaging process requires that the sponsor message be packaged onto programs and a master tape delivered to PBS six weeks prior to the broadcast date.  This time needs to be built into the sponsor’s creative development timetables. In other cases, specifically those where the program in question is containerized –meaning individual programming elements, including the approved underwriting message meeting timing requirements, can be broken out to allow for interchangeability as needed –the timeline for spot delivery is shortened considerably, e.g. 15 business days. 

  • If you would like to use existing footage, share it with PBS early in the process.

Show your PBS representative your existing spots so that necessary adjustments can be made for it to work on PBS.  Collaboration and guidance early in the process may prevent later revisions and disappointments.

  • Use storyboards and other actual elements to illustrate what you want to do.

Having real examples reduces the chances of confusion or misunderstanding.  Storyboards don’t  have to be elaborate or expensively produced—just clearly representative of the desired outcome.

  • Be prepared to make changes.

As with all creative, many spots require some adjustments from their original concepts.

  • Ask for help.

Contact the PBS Program Underwriting Policy staff at any time throughout the process for clarification and guidance. See the Key Contacts section of the Hub. 


Checklist of Deliverables

Underwriting policies and specifications as they relate to PBS program packaging and delivery—including a detailed production schedule and forms for key deliverables-- can be found in full within thePBS Editorial and Production Guidelines. The two most relevant areas for national underwriting include: