This trope is about two little things:
- People who donate money directly to the producer or distributor of works, in hopes of seeing more like them.
- Viewers of programs or networks whose primary funding comes from voluntary donations, rather than advertising or subscription.
The Trope Namer is PBS, whose stations and original programs used to be funded almost entirely by viewers. (Some stations still are.) For this reason, most PBS programs still end their acknowledgements with "Made possible by financial support/contributions to your PBS station from... viewers like you." (Since November 1, 1999, they've been following this with a pause, and then "Thank you.") Odds are, fewer viewers donate than not. People usually donate to PBS not because it helps keep the station running, but because neat "gifts" get thrown in (albeit for far more than the free-market rate), and because it's the PBS equivalent of Ratings: the sorts of programs that bring in heavy donations during pledge drives are the sorts of programs that the station will renew. Most of the grant money comes from airtime-hungry corporations, not-for-profit foundations, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ("A private corporation funded by
taxpayers the American people").
- Heavily parodied on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 8th-season episode Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. Since the show's writers/cast chose not to go all-in on recently-departed star Raúl Juliá, the next best target was public television pledge drives (the movie had been produced for PBS). So Pearl, having found her way to Castle Forrester an episode prior after escaping Ancient Rome, started a pledge drive to go play the slot machines.
- NPR ("Listeners like you")
- TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network).
- LinkTV (Only on DirecTV, Dish and the web)
- EWTN (a Roman Catholic network, foundress Mother Angelica used to encourage viewers to "keep us between your gas and electric bills", a donation slogan that's been picked up by other hosts on the network since Mother's passing.)
- Most Christian television and radio, and religious media in general for that matter, with one big exception.
- Canadian provincial television (TVOntario and BC's Knowledge Network).
- PBS shows do this. In 1999, a mandate was issued which requires Thanking the Viewer. American Masters happened to be already doing so at least a year prior, and some shows are really creative about it.
- Averted by Buccaneer Broadcaster Radio Caroline in the 1970s. When they tried to supplement their meagre commercial revenue with an appeal for listener donations they didn't get any. They did manage to stay on the air, though.
- WCRB, a classical music radio station out of Boston that is affiliated with that city's local PBS station, WGBH.
- Many charities or other nonprofit organizations, perhaps with help from a local TV or radio station. (This could be anything from a public access/PEG channel to a local network affiliate.)
- This trope is the entire point and intention of Grassroots movements. The idea is that since the campaigns are exclusively funded and powered by the majority of people within a given society, said movements gain direct political influence and become/generate representatives — all for that majority's sake.
- Many Internet radio stations/networks, including SomaFM, mvyradio.com, and many others.
- Leo Laporte's TWiT network, though in that case Leo's pay comes almost solely from viewer/listener contributions rather than advertising (more a self-move to make him accountable to those who watch), which mainly goes to technical operations and other employees.
- Radio Dead Air home of What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?
- The Welcome to Night Vale podcast is funded mostly by merchandise sales and listener donations, with the creators offering gifts for people who set up a regular monthly contribution
- Many, many YouTubers do this.
- Parodied in the opening for the Strong Bad Email, "autobiography":
Strong Bad: This email is brought to you by a grant from The Cheat and the support of Viewers Like You.
- Patreon. (Akin to Kickstarter, but specialized on art.)
- Later episodes of The Gaming Historian end with a female announcer stating that this show "Is made possible through our Patreon supporters. Thank you." after Norman says his Signing-Off Catchphrase.
- In Justice League, The Culture Channel is used as a Brick Joke in the 2-parter "Injustice For All". The Ultra-Humanite is seen earlier in the episode enjoying an opera on the Culture Channel in prison, to Lex Luthor's displeasure. Later, when he's been paid off to betray Luthor, he donates it to the Culture Channel, leading to this hilarious parody of the line:
Announcer: This program was made possible by generous grants from the Ultra-Humanite and Viewers Like You.
- The Martha Speaks episode "Martha's Chair" has Mrs. Demson see the "Viewers Like You" segment while watching Antiques Roadshow. She then rudely replies "You're welcome!"
- In The Simpsons episode "Missionary Impossible", Homer gets frustrated with a PBS telethon interrupting a show he was watching, and calls in a fake donation with enough money to end the telethon then and there. Unfortunately for him, PBS finds out where he lives and comes to collect whether he likes it or not, resulting in him getting attacked by Fred Rogers, the Teletubbies, and the Sesame Street characters; he runs to Reverend Lovejoy for sanctuary ("Their bloodthirsty pursuit is made possible by a grant from the Chubb Group!") and gets sent abroad as a Christian missionary. The episode is eventually revealed to be Fox itself hosting a telethon, with Bart calling in a gigantic fake donation.
Rupert Murdoch: You've just saved my network!
Bart: Wouldn't be the first time.