After 10 years on PBS, Smiley still weathering challenges

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Tavis Smiley may be celebrating 10 years on PBS, but that tenure hasn’t been easy.

In a Los Angeles Times interview, the talk show host admits that getting hip, high-profile guests is tough. “As the handlers get younger and younger and as the artists crave more and more to be in the social media zeitgeist, it becomes harder and harder for my producers to get through to clients the value of being on PBS,” he said. “It’s not an easy sell.”

And KCET’s decision in 2010 to drop PBS membership left Smiley without a production home.  “We go overnight to paying for office space, studio rental, parking stalls for my staff — we go overnight to paying full freight at a commercial outlet here in town,” Smiley said. “That dropped us into a deep, deep multimillion-dollar hole.”

Smiley raises most of the program’s budget, between $7 million and $8 million; PBS contributes about $1 million.

But he’ll be around for awhile: last month he signed another two-year contract with PBS.

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