Station loses prominent VHF channel position after dropping PBS affiliation

As KCET dumped PBS and officially went indie Sunday, the station was downgraded by two Southern California cable operators.

Both Charter Communications and Cox Cable moved the station out of a prominent VHF channel position and into a spot deeper inside the digital tier effective with the change.

For Charter subscribers (which number about 376,800 in Southern California, including Glendale and Burbank), KCET now appears on channel 309. And on Cox (which includes Santa Barbara), KCET is now on channel 129.

Both Charter and Cox made the move in order to keep PBS’ primary station — now KOCE — in the more trafficked VHF band.

KCET prexy/CEO Al Jerome said the station accepted the move in order to continue to clear its multicast channels — which now include KCET Kids and Family and MHz Worldview — on those two cable operators.

“In an effort to improve public media service for our viewers, KCET made a strategic decision to retain its digital multicast channels, which will be KCET Kids and Family, Vme and MHz Worldview,” Jerome said. “This has impacted our channel positions with some cable services. Our new digital channel strategy empowers us to pursue our mission to offer a wide range of programs that feature diverse perspectives.”

Jerome noted that KCET remains in the same channel position on most local cable providers, such as Time Warner and Comcast, while its position on DirecTV and Dish also remains unchanged.

The moves came after KCET, which spent 40 years as a PBS affiliate, severed its relationship with the pubcaster over a dispute over how much it pays the programming service in fees. Orange County-based KOCE, rebranded “SoCal PBS,” has become the region’s primary PBS outlet.

As part of the change, KCET also dropped its tagline “Infinitely More,” which it had used since 1997, replacing it with the slogan “Rethink TV.” The station kept its logo (a variation of the infinity sign), but with a design tweak.

Meanwhile, KCET isn’t the only organization losing some ground in the shake up. Over-the-air viewers in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast depended on KCET signal translators for their PBS programming. Those KCET translators remain, but non-cable and non-satellite viewers in Santa Barbara and some desert areas will be (at least temporarily) without PBS.

A rep for KOCE said the station hopes to eventually import its signal to areas in Southern California now not served by an over-the-air PBS signal.

“We are working to acquire translators that will expand our coverage to the desert cities and other outlying areas,” said KOCE’s Lindsey Neal. “Unfortunately, that takes time and funding to make it happen. In the meantime, we’ve worked with Cox Communications to ensure coverage to Santa Barbara.”

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