PBS to End Break-Free Programming
Sponsor spots to appear in 'Nature' and 'Nova' this fall
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2011 1:38 AM CDT
Updated May 31, 2011 5:38 AM CDT
"The people of PBS would not do this lightly," a former PBS board chairman says.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The days of uninterrupted programming at PBS may be numbered. Officials have notified member stations that PBS plans to start placing corporate sponsor spots and promotional messages in breaks during certain programs instead of between them, reports the New York Times, which notes that break-free programming has been one of PBS' most distinctive selling points for decades. The new model—which some fear will cause viewers and supporters to rebel—will be tested starting this fall in the science series Nova and Nature.

Officials decided on the change because putting all the messages in a single long block at the end of each show caused large numbers of viewers to switch off instead of sticking around for the next show, according to representatives. "It’s almost as if someone pulled the fire alarm and they scrambled for the exits,” the chief programming executive told member stations at a recent annual meeting. Still, he noted, PBS shows will remain “the longest hour in television in terms of content,” packed with as much as 54 minutes of programming. And some shows, like Masterpiece, may be never be candidates for interruptions. (Click here to read about how hackers recently caused PBS to "report" that Tupac was alive and well and living in New Zealand.)