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
’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
MoneyForMail.com, 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
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
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
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.