KCET drops affiliation with PBS

Was a result of the inability to renegotiate deal

Unable to renegotiate its deal with PBS, longtime Los Angeles affiliate KCET announced Friday it will go independent and drop the full public television lineup after the end of this year.

"After four decades as the west coast flagship PBS station, this is not a decision we made lightly," said KCET President and CEO Al Jerome in a statement. "We have been in discussions with PBS for over three years about the need to address challenges that are unique to our market as well as our station."

One of those challenges has been paying an affiliation fee to PBS of about $7 million a year at a time pledges and sponsorships have fallen in the way of increased media competition and since 2008 problems with the economy. In its statement KCET said their rate had been frozen before the economic downturn and they were unable to get it lowered.

KCET also noted Southern California is one of the few markets with overlapping public TV stations.

A spokesperson for PBS said they only learned Friday that KCET would carry out their long in-the-works threat to drop their affiliation.

"At issue were KCET's repeated requests that it be allowed to operate as a PBS member station without abiding by PBS policies and paying the corresponding dues," PBS said in a statement. "The Board and senior management of PBS remain focused on ensuring the people of Los Angeles continue to benefit from the full range of high-quality PBS content and services, including SESAME STREET, PBS NEWSHOUR, MASTERPIECE and NOVA....PBS' goal is to have a financially stable service in the Los Angeles market. PBS fully supports the idea of a Southern California consortium of stations and continues discussion with KOCE, KVCR, and KLCS, PBS' additional stations serving the Los Angeles market."

Jerome promised that KCET would now produce and distribute its own content across all media platforms. There had been discussions about sharing content with other public TV stations in the area including Orange County's KOCE-TV in Orange County, KVCR-TV in the Inland Empire and KLCA-TV , operated by the LA Unified School District , but apparently none of those bore fruit. KOCE will now be the largest public TV station in the area carrying PBS shows like "Sesame Street" and "News Hour."

"Our Board of Directors decided unanimously that KCET could best serve Southern California by allocating our supporters funds to locally focused news and cultural programming and other national and international quality content," said KCET board chairman Gordon Bava. "While separating from the PBS mother ship is daunting, the potential of providing a media platform for the creative, scientific, and cultural communities of Southern California to create informative and entertaining noncommercial programming with a fresh perspective is very exciting."

The released add that "KCET will remain a non-profit, viewer-supported public media organization, operating under a non-commercial, educational television broadcast license awarded to Community Television of Southern California as an independent public television station."