KCET station execs told the Los Angeles Times that an institutional bias within PBS favoring East Coast stations marginalized its contribution to the system. But critics counter that the station, departing PBS on Jan. 1, 2011, “squandered its potential” of its Hollywood location for productions.
PBS favors the “big three” — WETA, WGBH and WNET — which creates an “oligarchy” that means not only KCET but also medium and smaller PBS affiliates are unfairly blocked from getting their productions on the PBS schedule, KCET execs say. But LA media watchers insist that KCET simply didn’t produce competitive programming. WNET in New York contributed 125 hours to PBS last year; WGBH in Boston, 135 hours; and WETA in Washington, D.C., 337 hours. KCET contributed 10 hours.
PBS’s response: “Nothing prohibited KCET from becoming a highly productive producer in the PBS system,” a PBS representative said. “All avenues were open to them.” PBS President Paula Kerger declined to comment.
One professor agrees. “KCET,” said Lawrence Wenner, professor of communication and ethics at Loyola Marymount University, “has long had the reputation in the Los Angeles creative community as a hamstrung entity with total lack of imagination.”
I say KCET has a point on the bias. WPBT-Miami contributed 130 hours a year through its Nightly Business Report, but PBS still cut its funding to starvation levels, leading it to sell the program to a group of private investors with no history of news production. The new owners immediatly fired half the reporters, crippling the program. Yet PBS funds anything the “big three” want to do.