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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

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

Comments () | Archives (6)

What difference does it make now that they were closer to resolution than we thought? What a useless article.

Hi Zygion, Thanks for writing. I'm sorry you don't like the piece. However, I do think it matters how close the two sides were here - for starters, it reveals that the motivation behind KCET's moves likely had to do with things besides money. Also, as a reporter, I believe more information is better than less. Especially about a puzzling event like this!

I agree with Scott Collins. The difference coming down to $750,000, is a DISGRACE if true, and challenges KCET board and management credibility. Keep up the great work.

Wow, Mr. Zygion, you don't think it's worth an article to find out what happened at KCET? After years and years of taking millions in donations from viewers as the local PBS station, management at KCET has embarked on a potentially self-destructive path, and it turns out negotiations brought the two sides to less than $1 million apart? For this, KCET walks away from Charlie Rose, Frontline, Sesame Street, American Experience, etc. and begins showing old movies instead? Not only that, but as a result KCET loses its preferred position in the channel lineup at certain local cable carriers? Sounds like a story to me.

" it reveals that the motivation behind KCET's moves likely had to do with things besides money. Also, as a reporter, I believe more information is better than less"

OK Scott, we give. If you are going to say that, can you let the rest of us in on the secret motivation? Otherwise your comment looks like nothing more than personal speculation.

BTW my completely unsubstantiated speculation is you are right. ;-)

Who's sorry now? KCET, you committed corporate suicide by walking away from PBS when they gave you a lifeline because you were too rigid in your accounting books to shift the funds from the donation to pay PBS. That donation turned out to be a poison pill. And to think KOCE almost got sold a few years ago. What a reversal of fortunes for both stations.


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