KCET-TV Los Angeles to cut ties with PBS


One of the nation’s most-watched PBS stations will go independent in a dispute over finances. KCET-TV Los Angeles will drop its affiliation at the end of December.

As of January 1st, 2011 KCET will become the largest independent public television station in the US. “This decision is the result of KCET and PBS’ inability to reach an agreement on a reduction in PBS fees and greater programming flexibility. KCET will continue to carry the full PBS line-up through December 31, 2010,” the station announced Friday (9/8).

“By going independent, KCET is addressing issues unique within the PBS system. The station’s 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 station’s 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,” the announcement explained.

PBS sent this statement to RBR-TVBR:

“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.”

KOCE-TV President Mel Rodgers told the Orange County Register he expects his station to pick up most of the programming being dropped by KCET. That would make KOCE the primary PBS outlet in the LA market. That comes just a few years after the station almost ceased to exist. KOCE was sold in 2004 by Coast Community College District to the KOCE-TV Foundation for $32 million after local outcry nixed a sale to the Daystar religious network.

KVCR-TV is owned by the San Bernardino Community College District and KLCS-TV by the Los Angeles Unified School District.