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UPDATED: KOCE takes over as top PBS station after KCET cuts ties with network

October 8th, 2010, 2:16 pm · 43 Comments · posted by PETER LARSEN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

This story was updated with full details at 4:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8

KCET, the most prominent public TV station in Southern California for the past 40 years, announced Friday it will leave the PBS network at the end of the year and no longer carry such popular programs as “Masterpiece Theater,” “Sesame Street,” “Frontline” and “Nova.”

Instead, the Los Angeles-based KCET plans to become an independent public television station, providing programming from sources other than PBS, according its president, Al Jerome.

The move opens the door for KOCE, the Huntington Beach-based PBS affiliate, to take a much bigger role in the presentation of PBS programs, KOCE president Mel Rogers said Friday.

“They’ve done a good job for public television over the years,” Rogers said of KCET. “And it’s time for us to step into the breach. We assume we’ll be picking up the majority of that.

“We also have two other PBS stations in the market (KLSC in Los Angeles and KVCR in Riverside),” Rogers said. “Obviously we’ll be taking the lead role that KCET had, and work closely with our partners at those other two stations to make sure that viewers continue to get the programs they love.”

In the end, it was money that served as the wedge that drove KCET and PBS to split, both sides said Friday.

Jerome said the station had seen its dues rise from $5 million in 2005 to $7 million in 2009, a figure that PBS would not reduce even after the station argued that the economic downturn’s impact on fundraising made it impossible to pay.

“We ran out of time,” Jerome said. “We were at an impasse with them. And we said this is where we’re going to be: we’re going to be an independent station.”

A statement from PBS agreed that dues – and KCET’s attempts to reduce them – were at the heart of the issue.

“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 PBS statement read in part.

What it means for viewers of shows such as “American Masters,” “Antiques Roadshow” and “PBS Newshour” remains to be sorted out, but Rogers said he believes KOCE can take over much of that role – and viewership – with help from the other two PBS affiliates in the region.

KCET had been the “full service” PBS station, Rogers explained, meaning that it got to run all the big national shows on the nights they made their national premieres, and also got all the national promotion that went with them. Stations such as KOCE often had to wait weeks to air the same programs.

“We’re not going to enforce those delays,” Rogers said of the way in which he believes KOCE will work with KLCS and KVCR in the future. “We’re going to try to work in a coordinated way with those other stations, so that it’s easy to find those shows and we can cross-promote the shows, too.”

KOCE’s bigger role as a PBS affiliate will mean it will have to raise more money and pay more dues to PBS, Rogers said.

“But the good news is that we’ll have the support of PBS viewers throughout the market, helping us provide what they value so much,” he said.

The statement from the PBS network seemed to encourage the three stations to find a way to work together to provide all of the region’s public television needs.

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

Jerome said KCET had supported – and still supports – the idea of a consortium of public TV stations to share the programming and the financial burden in Southern California. He said KCET had asked PBS to let it step down from full-service status to the more limited standing that KOCE has – and thereby reduce its dues – but the network refused.

Jerome said KCET is still interested in forming a four-station group to provide public programming, though he isn’t sure how it would work to have three PBS affiliates and one independent station working together.

Rogers said KOCE viewers will notice changes – some current program will end to make way for the increase of shows migrating from KCET. But the station remains committed to providing its local coverage and programs for Orange County – and now even beyond.

“The question is going to be now how do we reach out to serve the more local needs in the PBS market,” Rogers said. “It’s about having a place where people can gather in front of lights and cameras and talk about local issues. We do a lot of that in Orange County, and we’re going to have to ramp up (to do it outside of Orange County, too).”

Jerome said he could not yet announce any details of the programming planned for the new KCET, though a Q-and-A on the station’s website mentioned that independently produced shows such as “SoCal Connected” and Huell Howser’s series will stay. Some shows will be familiar from the current lineup – not all of its programs are produced by PBS, Jerome said. Others will be familiar types of programs for KCET viewers – dramas and science shows, kids programs and news.

Rogers said the announcement by KCET on Friday caught him off guard, even though the dispute between the station and the network had been going on for years.

“It’s kind of inexplicable to me,” he said. “As a huge believer in the quality of PBS and the amazing quality of the content, I still think it’s head and shoulders above everything else on television. And you’ve got the trusted PBS brand.

“Up until an hour ago I thought for sure it would not happen,” Rogers said, when asked whether he thought there was any chance KCET and PBS could still resolve their differences and continue their long-running relationship. “But I think it has now.”

Jerome, reached later in the day, confirmed that this isn’t just a tactic to bring PBS around on the dispute.

“We have made a decision,” he said. “We got to the point where we said January 1, we’ve got to go.”


Posted in: PedroTelevision
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  • malumot says:

    Government TV station gets in conflict with Government content provider.

    A window to our future. (present?)

    And you people want MORE government intervention?

    • HBgeek says:

      So what do you watch? The commercial sewer? Without the public stations why would anybody even buy a TV set?

    • Ben says:

      If only they were government TV stations, your comment would be relevant and make sense.

    • Larry says:

      Adios KCET, PBS whatever and take NPR with you. They don’t call it ‘programming’ for nothing.

      I’d wager the programming comrade at KCET never did the math before running half the morning PBS kids shows in espanol.

  • hal says:

    KDOC is better than koce. just add maria hall brown.

  • GiantJesus says:

    Oh god, say it aint so…

    Does this mean that KDOC will show all that fine PBS programming like NOVA and Frontline??? Better say yes, or I’ll….

  • malumot says:

    The Good: No more Bill Moyers.

    The Bad: I’ll have to go elsewhere (I hope KOCE) for Charlie Rose.

    The Ugly: Huell Howser. I’m split on Huell. He can be annoying, but I usually enjoy learning about the places he goes.

    • Factoid says:

      Malumot, Bill Moyers had retired some months ago, but it sounds as if you couldn’t handle the truth he faithfully and honestly exposed. That seems to be problem for many Americans that would rather not hear about the facts, and prefer fantasy over reality. God help us…..

    • tenyrslater says:

      Huell is not annoying. I love it when he asks, “Now, let me get this straight, I can’t pick up a rock here and take it home because I am walking on endangered grounds?” And the guide replies, “NO, now put it back exactly where you got it” and Huell does.

      He is just down to earth and speaks like regular folk, like my family from the back hills of Arkansas.

  • backyardfartcontest says:

    What will happen to Huell?

    • Walstan86 says:

      My understanding is that Huell is one of those “programs from non-PBS sources” that KCET will retain. He produces and sells his own shows.


        Walstan — That’s my understanding, too — Huell should remain on air at KCET.

        • Eric Cooper says:

          Not if they go off the air. And due to lack of viewer funding KCET will die next spring without PBS. KOCE cannot pick up the whole lineup, there is not room on their schedule.

  • Grunt41 says:

    Hopefully KOCE will consider putting Charlie Rose on earlier, like around 10 PM. 11:30 on KCET was much too late.

    • tenyrslater says:

      Grunt, why don’t you just record it? I mean, if you have to be in bed by 11, then tomorrow you can see it at 10, or 9, or 8, or anytime. I like Charlie
      Rose too.

    • yadthink says:

      Charlie Rose is fantastic, although the topics don’t always grab me. The show is replayed the next day on KCET Orange and on

  • 714fl says:

    So long, good bye, farewell, public TV in Southern California. Good bye Huell, good bye Big Bird, good bye TV that enriched our lives and the lives of our chidren.

  • IEAngelFan says:

    KDOC(56) is not a public television station. KOCE(50) is..I’m pretty certain that Huell’s shows are not affected by this change..only national PBS shows as stated in the article. There is another PBS station, KVCR(24) located in San Bernardino. We will just have to change viewing habits for those programs but KCET has many fine programs that are not affected by this change

  • RobL says:

    I will miss Huell, but I wont miss the Government funded leftist commie pink liberal loving station one bit. It was bad enough that we had two on the dial, at least we are down to one, and It will be hard to stomach that anti-business, socialist vomit that spews out of the TV.

    • Eric Cooper says:

      then crawl back under your rock and switch back to the Cartoon Network where you are safe

    • howard says:

      Bill Moyers (now off the air) is the only one I thought leaned particularly left. Of course, based on your choice of words, I’m much (much) more moderate than you.

    • Walstan86 says:

      The beautiful irony is that the remaining liberal-loving station you’re talking about broadcasts from the heart of conservative Orange County.

  • Juan says:

    That sucks. I will miss the Nightly Business Report and BBC World News. I guess if I want to find out what’s happening outside of the US I will have to stick to Spanish and Korean language programming.

    I also like Travis Smiley. It’s nice to hear someone who interviews guests and actually waits to hear their response.


      Juan — I believe the BBC World News will stay on KCET. Tavis Smiley will move, but should be available to viewers on other stations.

  • Tom Allen says:

    The KCET FAQs page indicates their intent to retain Huell’s programming – as they should, his episodes are a treasure trove of information about our state.

  • melange says:

    Maybe now I can submit my Waynes World inspired TV show

  • msmargo says:

    This is not good. If a major station wants to broadcast, they’d better get an antenna on Mt Wilson like the rest of the big boys. These Huntington Beach and Riverside locations are not condusive to broadcasting to all of greater LA. I supposed it’s obvious, like many here, we get all our local HD channels with a roof antenna. I have a 10 ft antenna on a pole 10 ft above my roof. I dont get KVCR.

    Hope KCET reconsiders. Sounds like KOCE is going to blow it.

  • tenyrslater says:

    Sadly, the only time these stations put on a great show is when they constantly break to ask for your money. And I hate that.

    One time Huel Howser hosted one of these “We want your money” shows and he was selling doilies that a woman made out of string that was once used to tie up newspapers. Now tell me, who would want that?
    I’m laughing right now, too funny. But instead, I just mail them my $25.00 check and I don’t want anything, I just want to watch a show without all those “We need your money” breaks. You can keep the newspaper string doilies.

  • bob says:

    KVCR is the oldest public broadcasting station in California and is located at San Bernardino Valley College in San Bernardino, not Riverside, thank you.

  • Grunt41 says:

    Maybe part of KCET’s problem was the continual asking for donations. I donated a couple of years in a row, but I became tired of every few weeks or so their asking for more. Like a stray dog that gets pet it will follow you around and not leave you alone.

    The cost of those mailers begging for more money must of cost a bundle. If they had just done their pledge drive for a couple of weeks a year and let it go at that they could have saved money on those mailers, and likely would not have had contributors become “ex-contributors,” like I am. I am not the only one.

    Hopefully KOCE doesn’t, or will not, operate the same way.

    • howard says:

      All we need to solve a lot of problems, including the frequency of PBS pledge drives, is for the economy to perk up. What baffles me is, if there was a $2M/yr shortfall to stay with PBS, how come KCET couldn’t line up 40 of the local mega-rich to pledge $50K each?

  • Brian says:

    I certainly hope KOCE doesn’t blur it’s focus on OC news and community events. KOCE is the only station we have that does that, while LA has 7 stations that focus on their news and current events.


      Brian, KOCE’s president Mel Rogers told me that the station will not drop or shrink its commitment to OC news and programs, so hopefully that will be the case!

  • sudmuf says:

    Hopefully the next congress will defund the government contribution to PBS too. Obviously Washington doesn’t need to be wasting money borrowed from the Chinese.

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