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TCA Press Tour 2011: PBS chief says talks that failed to keep KCET in network fold went down to the wire

January 8, 2011 |  2:52 pm

Paulakerger The standoff that led KCET-TV to bolt from PBS may have been much closer to a resolution than viewers realized.

The station left the network earlier this month after months of disputes with PBS over dues and other issues. Speaking Saturday at the TV press tour in Pasadena, PBS chief Paula Kerger told reporters: "I believed until the very end that we were going to come to an understanding."

According to two sources familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, by the end of negotiations, the amount that KCET and PBS differed on was only $750,000, a sum that could plausibly have been raised in a single pledge drive.

Instead, KCET embarked on an uncertain future as an independent public broadcaster. Appearing before reporters Saturday, Kerger spoke without recriminations.

"I think that they believe that there is room in Los Angeles for a different type of public station," she said. "And that’s the path that they’ve embarked on. And I really, truly hope that they’re successful, because if they are, it will just further serve the people of this community.”

Meanwhile, Orange County's KOCE -- now doing business as PBS SoCal -- is off to a brisk start as the primary PBS station in Southern California.

Station head Mel Rogers said in an interview the station had suffered no major hiccups in its first week as the area's major PBS carrier. Ratings are already experiencing increases -- including for the Sunday showing of "Masterpiece," the signature 40-year-old drama series that PBS SoCal took over late last year. 

“We went from a 0.3 or 0.4" household rating "on Sunday night to a 1.2," Rogers said. "It tripled."

-- Scott Collins

Photo: PBS chief Paula Kerger spoke at the TV press tour Saturday. Credit: PBS / Associated Press