PubTV in L.A. not yet a case of win-win-win-win

When KCET announced in October 2010 that it would quit PBS after four decades as its primary Los Angeles affiliate, the task facing PBS was enormous: Find a local outlet to step into the breach, establish new branding, arrange for cable carriage, find homes for orphaned shows, and, most importantly, change long-term tuning habits so 16 million-plus potential viewers could find their favorite programs. All in less than three months. The outlet that stepped up was Orange County’s KOCE, a second-string station still recovering from a costly, drawn-out legal battle with religious programmer Daystar Television Network several years earlier. KOCE became PBS SoCal and, with extensive effort and CPB aid, the PBS program schedule began broadcasts on a new channel Jan. 1. But nearly a year into the new reality, it’s clear that the changeover has not been without complications.

Los Angeles Press Club Awards, 2011

KPCC’s Susan Valot and KCRW’s Kim Masters were recognized among best journalists in Los Angeles. Valot, a reporter who covers Orange County for Pasadena’s KPCC, was lauded by Press Club judges for producing “well-rounded reports with an authoritative, informed tone” and making great use of sound. Masters, a former NPR correspondent who now covers Hollywood for KCRW in Santa Monica, was named top entertainment journalist. Judges cited her voicing and thorough, substantive reporting on L.A.’s entertainment business. KPCC’s newsroom won top recognition in four categories of the radio division: for feature reporting by Madeleine Brand and Kristen Muller; entertainment reporting/criticism by Larry Mantle; use of sound by Kevin Ferguson; and the talk/public affairs program Airtalk with Larry Mantle.

KCET briefly pulls ahead of PBS’s main station in L.A.

Though it now does without PBS programs, KCET briefly recovered its role as the most-watched public TV station in Los Angeles in June. By last week, however, it was trailing PBS’s new primary outlet, Orange County’s KOCE. Now rebranded as PBS SoCal, KOCE began winning the area’s largest public TV primetime viewership in January, and continued winning through May, measured in gross rating points, according to TRAC Media Services. It was PBS SoCal’s June pledge drive — 19 days long — that brought it down, says TRAC analyst Craig Reed. Among the four pubTV stations in the market, KCET took 38 percent of the gross rating points and second-ranking PBS SoCal had 32 percent.

KCET’s split from PBS leaves uncertainty for both

It’s official: KCET, one of the biggest siblings in the PBS family, is leaving home for good. Although station President Al Jerome has complained for years about high network dues and the contentious overlap situation with KCET’s three PBS brethren in the Los Angeles area, few in the system thought he would actually sever the station’s 40-year link to PBS. Mel Rogers, president of the region’s new primary PBS station, KOCE in nearby Huntington Beach, summed up the reaction of many pubcasters:

“Up to the last minute, I did not think Al would go nuclear,” Rogers told Current. The first major-market affiliate to announce its defection came after months of difficult negotiations that had the feel of a high-stakes game of chicken (timeline). KCET’s decision to drop its PBS membership as of Jan.

Three years of talks fail to end dispute over KCET’s dues

June 2007: In a presentation to the PBS Board’s Station Services Committee, KCET protests that its dues assessments are disproportionately high and the other PBS stations in the Los Angeles market are overstepping their rights as part-time PBS members (PDP). Also June 2007: A PBS Board task force flies to Los Angeles to meet with the four PBS affiliates: The L.A. Unified School District’s KLCS, KOCE in Orange County, KVCR in San Bernardino and KCET. January 2008: Partly in response to KCET’s complaints, the PBS Board establishes a Membership Policies Review Committee to more closely examine PDP issues. March 31, 2009: The PBS Board approves the review panel’s final recommendations. The new rules aim to reallocate station dues more equitably in multistation markets.

Other stations like the plan so much, they say it’s theirs

A consultant’s study of public TV’s crowded Los Angeles market, commissioned by CPB, predicts a highly integrated collaboration among the area’s four stations would provide hefty financial savings and grow revenues for all four. The eight-week study by Booz & Co. — a major consulting firm spun off by Booz Allen Hamilton — said the present structure of the market has stunted the four stations. They’ve suffered a 10 percent revenue decline since 2005 and a 26 percent drop in net assets since 2007. All have average audiences below the PBS national average rating of 1.1 percent.

KCET warns it may leave PBS

After negotiating with PBS for eight months over a proposal to reduce its dues and remake public TV in the Los Angeles market, the city’s biggest public station announced last week that it is preparing to completely drop out of the network. If KCET proceeds with its back-up plan for financial relief, as of Jan. 1 PBS would be left without a station committed to air the bulk of its schedule in the nation’s second-largest media market. It would be the first departure of a major-market member in the network’s history. KCET President Al Jerome told Current in an extended interview that he’d prefer to remain with PBS, but — if the network doesn’t budge — he has unanimous board backing to forgo the PBS brand and the icon series from its National Program Service.

Without PBS dues relief, KCET says it will quit PBS at year’s end

After negotiating with PBS for eight months over a proposal to reduce its dues and reconfigure pubTV in the Los Angeles market, the city’s bigget public station announced this week that it may drop out of the network by Jan. 1. If KCET proceeds with that option, PBS would be left without a station committed to carrying its primetime and children’s schedules in the nation’s second-largest media market. It would be the first departure of a major-market member in the network’s  history. KCET President Al Jerome told Current that he’d prefer to remain with PBS, but says — if the network doesn’t budge — he has unanimous backing from the station’s board of directors to forgo the PBS brand and the icon series of its National Program Service.

George Foster Peabody Awards for 2009


Producers for public broadcasting — and developers for its websites — received 14 Peabody Awards, announced March 31, 2010
Regarding websites, the judges honored two in public media:

Sesame Street’s (“prodigious adaptability . . . delightfully educational, interactive,” the Peabody announcement said) website
NPR’s (“one of the great one-stop websites. And there’s music you can dance to”) website

Peabodys went to six PBS programs — double the number won by any other organization:

“Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About,” about the great New York choreographer, from WNET/American Masters, produced and directed by Judy Kinberg, with Susan Lacy, e.p. — website

“The Madoff Affair” from RAINmedia and WGBH/Frontline, written and produced by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith, edited by Jordan Montminy, with Chris Durrance, co-producer — website, watch online

two films on Independent Lens—

“The Order of Myths,” about the black and white Mardi Gras traditions of Mobile, Ala., by Margaret Brown, with Folly River Inc., Netpoint Productions, Lucky Hat Entertainment and ITVS (“highly original, moving and insightful”) — website
“Between the Folds” from Green Fuse Films and ITVS about the art of paper-folding (“makes you gasp at the possibilities — of paper and of human creativity”) — website

“Endgame,” a dramatization of secret talks that helped end apartheid in South Africa, from Daybreak/Channel 4/Target Entertainment, presented on WGBH’s Masterpiece Contemporary — website

“Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times,” from KCET, Los Angeles (“drama enough for several feature films”), written, directed and produced by Peter Jones, with Brian Tessier, supervising producer, and exec in charge, Bohdan Zachary — website

KCET also scored with with its regional broadcast SoCal Connected—specifically two reports on the medical-marijuana conflict (“lively, eye-opening coverage”)—“Up in Smoke” by correspondent Judy Muller, producer Karen Foshay and editor Alberto Arce, and  “Cannabis Cowboys” by reporter John Larson, producer Rick Wilkinson, editor Michael Bloecher, and associate producer Alexandria Gales.

James Lee Mathes, 73, and Fred Burgess, 64

Two public broadcasters active in southern California during the 1960s and 1970s, James Lee Mathes and Fred Burgess, retired to Kansas together in the 1980s. They died within seven months in 2007. James Lee Mathes
James Lee Mathes, 73, a pioneer in public TV at KCET and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, died March 27 [2007] in his home state, Kansas. He had pancreatic cancer. Mathes worked on such KCET projects as Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series and an eight-nation simulcast, as well as fundraising and general administration.

Target: sitters who could be teachers

KCET in Los Angeles unveiled a multimillion-dollar initiative to help prepare kids for kindergarten by training the adults who care for them. Two new daytime talk series — one produced in English and the other in Spanish — are centerpieces of the project. Through daily broadcasts of A Place of Our Own and Los Ninos in Su Casa, KCET aims to provide skills, information and inspiration to unlicensed caregivers and enlist them in the important work of nurturing early learning skills. These friends, neighbors and relatives of parents often work in isolation and have little access to training. Shaped by input from leading educators and formative research on its target audiences, the station’s education initiative has raised $20 million so far, including the largest grant in KCET’s history—$10 million from the energy company BP.