KCET to go independent from PBS *

KCET will become an independent public station on January 1, the station announced, citing an "inability to reach an agreement on a reduction in PBS fees and greater programming flexibility." KCET says it will continue to carry the full PBS line-up only through December 31, 2010. From the announcement:

Al Jerome, KCET President and Chief Executive Officer, issued the following statement:

“After four decades as the west coast flagship PBS station, this is not a decision we made lightly. We have been in discussions with PBS for over three years about the need to address challenges that are unique to our market as well as our station.

“As an independent public television station, KCET will be committed to investing in Southern California by developing, acquiring, producing and distributing content across all media platforms. We will continue to offer the KCET audience programming from leading national and international sources. Some of these series are currently on our air.

“Our plan is to become the media partner for the many diverse, creative voices in our community with stories to tell, art to exhibit, music or dance to perform and news to report. We will partner with other public service organizations so that our viewers can learn about the good work being done, but not often reported in the commercial media. We will use our broadcast spectrum and broadband capabilities to expand public service at a time in our history when people of all ages want to actively participate in the recovery and growth of our region.”

By going independent, KCET is addressing issues unique within the PBS system. The stationís PBS dues were increased by 40% because of its extraordinarily successful fundraising effort on behalf of A Place of Our Own/Los Niños en Su Casa. The dues were then frozen at the highest rate in the stationís history just as the economy tumbled, leading to decreases in contributions from viewers, corporate underwriting, and foundation grants. Further, KCET is in the only market with four overlapping stations, which is why the station had been pursuing a consortium with the other stations in the Southern California region.

Gordon Bava, KCET Chairman of the Board, stated:

“Our Board of Directors decided unanimously that KCET could best serve Southern California by allocating our supportersí funds to locally focused news and cultural programming and other national and international quality content While separating from the PBS mother ship is daunting, the potential of providing a media platform for the creative, scientific, and cultural communities of Southern California to create informative and entertaining noncommercial programming with a fresh perspective is very exciting.”

KCET will remain a non-profit, viewer-supported public media organization, operating under a non-commercial, educational television broadcast license awarded to Community Television of Southern California as an independent public television station.

An L.A. Times blog entry says station officials intend to replace such iconic PBS fare as "Charlie Rose," "NewsHour," "Sesame Street" and "Masterpiece" with news and documentaries from Japan, Canada and elsewhere, along with old feature films.

* Added PBS statement:

PBS was notified today of KCET’s intention to withdraw its membership. At issue were KCET’s repeated requests that it be allowed to operate as a PBS member station without abiding by PBS policies and paying the corresponding dues. The Board and senior management of PBS remain focused on ensuring the people of Los Angeles continue to benefit from the full range of high-quality PBS content and services, including SESAME STREET, PBS NEWSHOUR, MASTERPIECE and NOVA.

PBS’ goal is to have a financially stable service in the Los Angeles market. PBS fully supports the idea of a Southern California consortium of stations and continues discussion with KOCE, KVCR, and KLCS, PBS’ additional stations serving the Los Angeles market.

Also see:
Howser: Future at KCET uncertain
Ask Al Jerome (KCET)
Frequently Asked Questions (KCET)

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