CPB Office of the Ombudsman

About That Logo

Joel Kaplan

November 12, 2013

When last we left the dispute between WXEL viewer Darryl Harris and the public broadcaster over the size and location of its on-screen logo, Donald Sussman, the president of WXEL, explained the importance of the station's logo and the steps WXEL has taken to insure that it would not be overly disruptive to the public's viewing pleasure. Mr. Sussman also said WXEL was looking at other modifications to the logo in terms of making it more transparent, reducing its size and possibly making it smaller.

Unfortunately, three months later, Mr. Harris is still unhappy with both WXEL's logo and Mr. Sussman:

I wanted to wait awhile before giving you my first update on "not losing the logo"! I reread your Lose the Logo" report and paid close attention to Sussman's comments about the whole technical aspects of their logo, the placement, the differences between HD and other screen ratios. I am not a TV tech, geek or wizard when it comes to the things that can be or not be done on our TV screens. For me personally, I thought that Sussman was blowing fog, smog and smoke to deflect our attack of the ill use and disgraceful distraction of a PBS station's logo. I could care less if his feelings were hurt or that he felt that "losing the logo" was a small, petty criticism that did not warrant our attention.

WXEL refuses not only to lose the logo, but sticks the logo in our faces and defies us to do anything about it. As of right now, WXEL continues to keep their logo on the screen for almost the entire time they broadcast any of the great PBS programs I watch. The logo is still too large and too bright and is still too centrally located on the screen.(I see at times they have tried to make the logo more transparent, lighter so to speak, which is a step in the right direction. Also they've tried putting the logo "behind" titles, dialogue, names, subtitles, but, believe it or not, the logo still covers up letters, names, subtitles, etc.)

Honestly, I never thought this whole problem with WXEL's logo would ever get to this point. When I started calling and emailing WXEL about their logo, (which has been going on for almost 2 years) I really believed they would do something about it. Talk about naiveté on my part. As a matter of fact, Sussman's emails back to me were very positive. I really believed him when he said they would do something about it. What a joke! They were never going to do anything about their logo. And I feel even now, they could care less. Their logo is there to stay, period. Neither me, you nor the whole CPB family is going to do anything about it.

Finally, I have watched so many other great programs on other stations including the Smithsonian Channel, and not one of these other stations comes even close to having an intrusive logo such as the one that WXEL uses. Watching Shakespeare's "King Henry" series on WXEL is absolutely a painful experience. Sadly, WXEL's bright large logo covers up dialogue, titles and whatever is on the bottom of the screen.

If there is anything else I can do to try and remove this blight on the screen of these fantastic PBS programs, please let me know. This is not a small thing we are trying to do. WXEL's logo is a disgrace and their defiance is even worse. Would you believe me if I told you how so many great PBS/CPB programs became painful experiences to watch because of the placement of their logo, the brightness and size of it. How many times I cringed in my chair as the logo covered up titles, dialogue, names, dates, etc. as an opera lover, the WXEL logo spoiled so many wonderful "great performances"!

I am saddened by Mr. Sussman's comments that want to show me as a kind of bothersome viewer, criticizing the station for a small and petty issue. Maybe he should revisit the mission of a public television station. His own WXEL public television station exists to serve the public, all the public, in the best way possible, and that includes putting on the screen a logo that is NOT a distraction in any way, shape or form.

For his part, Mr. Sussman has become a bit frustrated as well. Upon hearing about this latest complaint, he took screen shots of various other local programmers—both commercial and public—and shared with the ombudsman their logos.

I have attached a number of screen shots taken this morning of a few of West Palm Beach local television stations. While the WXEL logo may be a bit larger in width than some of the others, all of the logos are in the exact same position as ours, the 4:3 aspect ratio safety zone. Some are in full color and some, like ours, are transparent. Given this evidence, I am not quite certain why Mr. Harris seems to be exclusively targeting WXEL. One of the screen shoots is of WLRN, also a public television station originating from Miami. The size if its logo is virtually the same size as ours.

But Mr. Harris said that Mr. Sussman is missing his point:

I only had to look at a few of the photos WXEL sent you to realize that the station and Mr. Sussman don't get it. And maybe they don't want to get it. The logos from the other stations do not cover dialogue, they do not cover titles or subtitles or names. The logo of WXEL is too big, too bright and misplaced on the screen.

What is it with Mr. Sussman! I can only imagine that WXEL wants everyone to make sure they, the station's audience, "see" and give "credit" to the station carrying this wonderful programming.

All he has to do is look at every "great performance" Opera or Shakespearian plays or the Jacob's Pillow dance program or musical events and let him see how his WXEL logo covers up names, titles, dialogue, subtitles and anything else that appears on the bottom of the screen and which is also covered up by the logo.

I am not on any crusade to remove WXEL's logo from the screen. I only want WXEL to put the logo at a place on the screen where it does not get in the way, does not cover up information on the bottom of the screen, and which is not too bright nor too big. When that is accomplished I will never complain again and will congratulate the station on listening to the feedback coming from one of its viewers. I also think that many, many other viewers will be happy, too.

Finally, in an attempt to find common ground, Mr. Sussman said the station will work to see if they can fix the logo situation to Mr. Harris' satisfaction:

I truly appreciate Mr. Harris' support of public television, notwithstanding his penchant for making this discussion more personal than necessary. My career in public broadcasting at National Educational Television (NET) began in the late 1960s pre-dating the creation of both PBS and CPB. Perhaps I've stayed around too long but when you believe in what you do and have the good fortune to continue doing what you love, you leap at the chance. Having been chased off of a potato farm at on Long Island while shooting a documentary on the plight of migrant workers for public television called "What Harvest for the Reaper," a ten-year retrospective of the great Edward R. Murrow classic, "Harvest of Shame," I know what our mission is all about and I know how important our loyal viewers are in providing the support needed in order for us to fulfill that mission. I take great exception to the tone of Mr. Harris' complaints.

Having said that, I've asked a few of my colleagues to monitor our air, particularly the programs he cited, and report to me on their impressions, without bias or pride of ownership. In the interim, I have also asked that alternative designs be developed that reduce the size of our logo. Our logo will remain, however, in some iteration that hopefully alleviates Mr. Harris' concerns.

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