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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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KCET dumped PBS, now holds door open to remarriage

AlJeromeKCET KCET's New Year's break from the PBS system and its move to become an independent station seemed quite final and irreversible.

But in an interview published in a trade publication, the hard-charging head of KCET's board held out the possibility that KCET might one day return to PBS.

Huh? Given the hard feelings at the public network that seems a bit like NBC offering to make nice with Conan O'Brien. But perhaps nothing is eternal in love ...and television.

Speaking to Broadcasting & Cable, KCET Chairman Gordon Bava was asked if the station might return to the public TV network's "fold." His response: "That is certainly a possibility. We have not terminated our relationship with PBS, we have suspended it indefinitely. We aren’t sure PBS is willing to accept that distinction, but that is our express intention. So that when the dust settles and we see maybe in a couple of years what the future of PBS holds and its role will be, we certainly would be open to returning on a reasonable and sustainable basis."

KCET stunned many people in the small and insular public broadcasting world when it said last year (to The Times, incidentally) that it would break with the dominant public TV network. Bava and station Chief Executive Al Jerome said KCET simply couldn't afford to pay the roughly $7 million in annual "dues" levied by PBS.

Bava also says in the Broadcasting & Cable interview that he thinks many other public stations will be in danger of closing down if the federal government cuts funding--as congressional Republicans have proposed.

The stations have already been losing support rapidly, Bava said, adding: "In this era of budget cuts and eliminating government services and a reluctance to increase taxes, the viability of the system is in question."

Bava told the trade publication that public TV may, like the auto industry, have to be retooled in order to justify its taxpayer subsidy. He suggested a "new grand bargain" between public TV, Congress and the American people.

With KCET out of PBS, the vast bulk of PBS programming now comes to Southern California via Orange County-based KOCE. KOCE Chief Executive Mel Rogers previously expressed puzzlement about KCET's flight from PBS. On Tuesday, Rogers told my colleague Scott Collins that he found Bava's remark about a possible return to PBS "curious and surprising.”

PBS execs could not be reached. But given Bava's previous tough talk about PBS and its fees, he must have stunned a lot of people by holding the door open to a renewed relationship with KCET. I doubt many of the people in charge at PBS would welcome a second marriage.

--James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: KCET Chief Executive Al Jerome, who helped engineer the public television station's flight from the PBS network. Now the chairman of the KCET board, Gordon Bava, has held open the door that KCET might someday return to PBS. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (8)

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Even now, when KCET needs the help of the creative and academic communities more than ever, instead of bringing in new blood they circle the wagons and dispense new job titles to the same tired team which got them here--a classic symptom of institutional failure.

The inmates are running the asylum.

Congrats to KCET management for their wonderful stewardship.

KCET did not plan their exit very well. KCET's line up is not attractive. They have a show, Russian Times, that is just a propaganda vehicle for the state and does not meet western standard of journalistic independence. Al Jazeera's quality has improved very much, but there is still a question about independence when they report on their home country. KCET has also gone back to being over-infatuated with British programing. An English accent does not denote quality. I don't see any shows focused on southern California. I am not pledging a penny to such a weak line up. Thank goodness for the digital conversion, because KOCE comes in just fine. KCET made a huge mistake and they will have to come groveling back. The whole KCET board needs to be replaced.

Remarriage? I thought marriage could only be between a man and a woman in this state! Wait til NOM hears about this!

"public stations will be in danger of closing down if the federal government cuts funding--as congressional Republicans have proposed."

In a Republican world, if we only had Fox News as an information source they'd be happy. Anything else is considered "liberal biased."

If PBS lets those fools who rush out back in, my family and I will have to boycott.

does anyone know what KOCE is paying in dues?

Station needs a complete reboot.

Hopefully without any money out of my pocket.


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