MEDIA: If a client knows dough, this show is Right on the Money

Right on the Money aims to help ordinary Americans solve - or prevent - financial problems. Claire Atkinson checks its balance

Right on the Money aims to help ordinary Americans solve - or prevent - financial problems. Claire Atkinson checks its balance

Right on the Money aims to help ordinary Americans solve - or

prevent - financial problems. Claire Atkinson checks its balance

Any Prada-toting publicist worth her salt knows how it feels to get that

credit card bill at the end of the month. If you wince when you see the

total on yours, sit down and watch Right on the Money. It could help you

- and your client.

Billed as ’the show you can’t afford to miss,’ the PBS personal finance

program has covered all manner of subjects. Each half-hour edition

tackles a single issue. The show’s second season, ending this month, has

featured everything from ’In the Red’ (considering bankruptcy) to

’Online Trade Rage’ (Internet investing).

The most enduring and popular subject for the show has been getting out

of debt. The program offers statistics demonstrating how easy it is to

enter the trouble zone. Credit card spending is set to reach almost

dollars 900 billion this year, with 55 to 60 million households carrying

a balance of dollars 7,000 on their accounts. If your client, whether a

Web site or consumer association, has some advice to offer, now is the

time to get in touch with the producers.

In a few weeks the production team begins work on the third season. It

is already kicking around 50 ideas (and has committed to some) focused

on helping ordinary Americans budget their way through college,

marriage, retirement and even death.

The producers are also open to your pitches. If you send them to series

producer Margaret Brower, she might direct them to any of the three

associate producers on the show. As yet, publicists have been slow to

contact the program, but Brower says interest is building.

One million viewers a week

That might be because the series is carried by 135 public stations and

is seen by around one million viewers a week. It airs at different times

across the country but is mostly broadcast on Saturday afternoons. The

anchor is Chris Farrell, who was selected after a nationwide search by

Gerald Richman, who developed the show. Farrell is something of a

multimedia star; he also writes for Business Week and fronts a public

radio show called Sound Money. He is based in Minnesota, where the show

is produced.

’Chris is instrumental in choosing the experts,’ Brower says. ’He is a

fine journalist and very humble.’

Minneapolis public station KTCA-TV is the production company behind the

show, which is financed partly by insurance holding company ReliaStar

Financial. The team’s rigorous journalistic approach to finance earned

it a Loeb award nomination in the TV journalism category at the end of

May, making it a contender against NBC’s Dateline.

On average, Farrell selects around two experts per show, but he also

makes plenty of room for mentioning places to go for help. One segment

called Net Gains mentions suitably vetted Web sites such as, a permission-based marketing site operated by show

contributor Gerri Detweiler.

Right on the Money also uses numerous reporters from publications like

Bloomberg Personal Magazine and Bride’s. Then there are industry

commentators like Mark Fetting of Prudential Investments and Paige

Amidon, who works for the Consumers Union.

While Farrell is a long-established personal finance writer with a

bulging Rolodex, he says he is happy to hear about new sources of


Those people who make it on the show also get listed at the Web


The series is aimed at finding its participants a range of resources to

help them with a particular problem, be it organizing a wedding or

setting up in business. ’We would always welcome families,’ Brower


’Let us know if you have a family that has a question and wants to learn

about something.’

Brower got her nose for the world of finance during five years at the

American Bankers Association, where she produced corporate videos. Then

she spent time on the tabloid news show Hard Copy, where she tightened

up her production and editing skills. ’The content was not up my


I was much more geared toward teaching and enlightening,’ she


The years she spent at the bankers group, however, gave her the

(evidently lasting) interest in personal finance.

Brower reminds publicists that Right on the Money is not a show about

investing. ’We are not into stock picking,’ she says, adding: ’We are

not a news program. We are not a get-rich-quick show and we’re not

looking for the guru of the hour. We are looking for ideas.’

Always take the time to pitch

Still, she says it is always worth pitching an idea - ’it might not work

immediately, but it might spark something.’ She is interested in

receiving reports and trend information but can’t guarantee that she’ll

use it.

Though based in Minnesota, the show is taped on location all over the

country. If the team is filming a family in a certain location, it might

seek out local experts to get the best value out of the trip. The

producers are also not averse to paying for guests to fly to


Subjects slated for next season include freelancing, retirement, single

parenting, taking care of parents and couples with different styles of

money management. The team has also committed to doing a piece on

financing a death in the family. ’You should never make financial

decisions when you are rushed or under emotional distress or through

ignorance,’ Brower says. ’We are going to look at funeral homes and


The new season will also include some basic economics aimed at

explaining why Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan’s comments have

the effect they do.

The long lead time is something that publicists ought to take into


While the new season goes into production in July, the first episodes do

not air until September.

The second season is due to wind up on June 24 with a special featuring

comedian Louie Anderson. Anderson, also host of revived game show Family

Feud, plays a financially over-extended character named Ernie. The Right

on the Money experts, from places like The Motley Fool, help him through

his dilemmas.

Sometimes, money can be funny.


Right on the Money

KTCA National Productions

172 East Fourth Street

Saint Paul, MN 55101

Tel: (651) 222 1717

Fax: (651) 229 1282




Series producer: Margaret Brower

Producers: Nancy Esslinger, Jim Leinfelder

Executive producer: Joe Garbarino

Executive in charge of production: Gerald Richman

Host: Chris Farrell.

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