Originally published: November 1, 2010
Last updated: November 1, 2010 - 2:58pm
A Q&A with PBS President Paula Kerger.
KCET, the major PBS station in Los Angeles, last month stunned the noncommercial TV world when it made good on a threat to quit PBS effective Jan. 1, complaining that the PBS dues structure was an undue hardship. The station, led by former NBC stations executive Al Jerome, is the primary PBS outlet in the country's No. 2 TV market. It balked at paying nearly $7 million in dues, up 40% according to published reports. The dues went up largely because KCET had secured a $50 million grant to produce two series, later shown nationwide to great acclaim. PBS treated the grant as revenue and included it in formulating dues; KCET argued that the money was separate from operating revenue and that the grant prohibited spending the money on anything but the series. Without KCET, there are still three PBS stations serving Los Angeles, which figured into KCET's argument. With KCET's defection, KOCE in Huntington Beach will become the main PBS station in the area. Meanwhile, KCET, which begins life as a noncommercial independent just two months from today, has received a $1 million grant from the Ahmanson Foundation that it can use to acquire or produce new non-PBS programming. Paula Kerger explained how PBS tried to keep KCET in the fold, and why, ultimately, the public network couldn't swing a deal.
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