Oct 11, 2010

Days after KCET's withdrawal from PBS, surprise and confusion

Although it had been negotiating with KCET for nearly a year over a dues disagreement, PBS was taken aback with the Oct. 8 announcement that the station was dropping its membership. "How quickly it happened was a surprise," PBS President Paula Kerger said in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday (Oct. 10).

The decision left confusion in its wake. KOCE President Mel Rogers says it has to "ramp up in a hurry" to assume primary station status. "It's in our interest to make sure viewers get the same content at the time they're accustomed to watching it," he said. "That's the goal we're shooting for." But Kerger would only say that KOCE will be the primary station "if that's what we need them to do."

Plus, KCET's participation in a four-station, resource-saving consortium (Current, Aug. 5) with area stations KOCE, KVCR and KLCS, is in up in the air. KCET President Al Jerome told Current he'd like the station to remain in the group; Larry Ciecalone, president of KVCR, said the group is continuing without KCET. "The collaboration would've been stronger with four stations, but the market will still win with three of us involved," Ciecalone said. However, Kerger said "the door is not shut at all" for KCET to play some role.

Additional coverage:

— Jerome told the New York Times Media Decoder blog: “I imagine there will be some loss in the donor base, but in the direction we’re headed, I’m very comfortable we’ll also re-establish our donor base.” Kerger said that allowing KCET to lower its dues was not possible because “all of our stations abide by the same dues structure, and it’s very difficult for us to make an exception.”

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