PBS believes stations will stay in fold

CEO says it's unlikely that others will follow KCET defection

As PBS adjusts to serving Southern California post-KCET, the programming service doesn’t expect to see any more major station defections.

“I don’t see any other stations poised to go down the same path as KCET,” PBS prexy-CEO Paula Kerger told reporters Saturday during the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. “These are difficult times for all our stations. We’re particularly focused to really looking at opportunities to help our stations (financially).”

Kerger and PBS also are poised to work with stations to defend their funding, as a new Congress sets its sights on reducing the amount of money that goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“We’re quite concerned,” Kerger said. “Our stations will do as they have done in the past to make their case. Now’s the time for the public to make its voice heard.”

The bulk of PBS’ funding comes from viewers; that contribution clearly has decreased in response to the economic downturn. Most of PBS’ corporate sponsors have remained committed despite the recession, Kerger added.

Kerger opened PBS’ portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour with KOCE-TV prexy-CEO Mel Rogers, whose station became L.A.’s primary PBS affiliate (rebranded as “PBS SoCal”) on Jan. 1.

“I believed to the very end that PBS would come to an understanding with KCET,” Kerger said. “We did everything that we could do to come to a positive resolution. (But) they believe there is room for a different type of public station, and that’s the path they have embarked on. I hope they’re successful.”

KCET wasn’t the first PBS station to drop its affiliation in recent years, but the L.A. station was by far the largest to take such a drastic step.

Kerger said PBS has worked closely with KOCE in the transition, as well as San Bernardino’s KVCR and the L.A. Unified School District’s KLCS.

Rogers said KOCE continues to plot out how it will now serve the larger region. The station just moved into larger Costa Mesa facilities and is looking at ways to create a physical presence in Los Angeles.

“We do need boots on the ground,” he said.

KOCE also is looking to expand its current staff of around 40 to about 70-80 people, Rogers said.

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