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Is our local PBS station sending coded messages to subscribers?

Longtime WGBH subscriber Larry Davidson of Dorchester reports that he got two copies of WGBH's monthly magazine, one with a mailing label that adds this cryptic line between his name and address:


Cognitive-acuity test or coded message intended for 'GBH's black-helicopter pilots?

Free tagging: 




Man Camera TV




with your Cookie Monster special decoder ring.



Z, double O, M,
Box 3-5-O,
Boston., Mass.


It's the activation code for the GBH Passport service via the PBS app. If you donate a certain amount per year, you get an account to stream their programs.

That doesn't sound right.

First of all, yes. They can charge for streaming. You don't see those charges for current episodes of their wares because they are part of the fees you pay to streaming services.

Secondly, this passport allows you to go back and pick out decades of NOVA episodes or other content that isn't the current episode or feature.


The last word is "Domino", not "Video." It'll never make sense if you don't notice that. /s

But it's just the passphrase to set up an online account or something like that. Says so on like the inside cover.

The mailing label code is a subscriber's password to online viewing: "If you do not have your activation code, it should be printed on the mailing label of your Explore! magazine."

Waiter at Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston seen on video using laptop during lunch rush... cold food delivered along with slow drink delivery...utter chaos ensues...

They've been doing that for a while now. Its a code you can use to get subscriber access to programming on the PBS website.

Now we can all get extra PBS stuff!


The words are probably drawn from a word list of (let's say) 256 words, selected to be as different from each other as possible in both spelling and pronunciation. Each word represents a number from 0 to 255. A list of four such words can encode over 4 billion different values.

They could instead use hexadecimal and say "your code is A4-45-0C-F8" but even a little smudge on the shipping label (which is extremely common) would make it unusable.

waiter is to sunset as laptop is to video.
(which translates to: one watches a sunset on a waiter the same way one watches video on a laptop).