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A Not So Beautiful Day
October 9, 2010 6:55 PM   Subscribe

A pullout isn't good news for PBS, either, as it signals "to other PBS members that affiliation isn't that important anymore," according to Jeffrey McCall, a media expert at DePauw University. Los Angeles Public Broadcasting Stations' (PBS) affiliate KCET has announced they will be pulling out of the network. Things have not been going well for the station for a while now.

Previous commentary on LA Times discussion boards and at Charity Navigator.
posted by victors (52 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Crap, that was my PBS station growing up, where I watched countless hours of Seasame Street, Electric Company, and local specials. Dang.
posted by mathowie at 6:56 PM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I know someone on the board—next time I see them I'll ask what's up.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:05 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Infinitewindow, please let us know what you find out. This is kind of troubling, and I hope it's an isolated situation; not a trend we see nationally.
posted by pianoboy at 7:10 PM on October 9, 2010


And oh yeah, I watch KLCS way more on the weekends than I do KCET. It's got more of what I want to watch these days (basically cooking shows with recipes I can actually make and home improvement without creative editing and bullshit narratives).
posted by infinitewindow at 7:11 PM on October 9, 2010


Wow. I remember watching Peter, Paul & Mary during pledge season on KCET as a kid.
posted by SMPA at 7:34 PM on October 9, 2010


home improvement without creative editing and bullshit narratives

I am curious what those would be.
posted by madajb at 7:44 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


home improvement without creative editing and bullshit narratives

OH SHIT ARE YOU ABOUT TO THROW DOWN ON THIS OLD HOUSE?
posted by indubitable at 7:53 PM on October 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


I volunteered for KCET way back when they did a Live TV Auction instead of pledge drives. It was a lot of fun and a great community of people back circa 1980, even if Casey Kasem did yell at me (but then, it's one of my best "brushes with fame" anecdotes). I really wish they had never given up on the Auction-fundraisers.

But in recent years, it has been so obvious how Public TV has fragmented in the L.A. area, with multiple other PBS stations getting on all the local cable systems. Then, KOCE, the Orange County station that gets to run PBS shows after KCET is through with them, improved its transmitter so well that non-cable households in the San Fernando Valley could pick up the station! (Good for my no-cable dad who loves the Britcoms KOCE fills Friday and Saturday nights with, but certainly bad for KCET)

And while KCET-produced shows have been way too rare on the larger network, let us not forget the MOTHER OF THEM ALL: Carl Sagan's "Cosmos".
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Crap, KCET was my PBS station growing up, too. I wouldn't be able to count all the episodes of Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, 3-2-1 Contact and NOVA I've seen on that station.

Oh, and Huell Howser's Videologs, and later California's Gold.

And KOCE as well. I took some video animation/computer graphics courses there way back.

I can't help but feel that KCET has been on a downhill slide into mediocrity for years, with ever increasing and ever more annoying fund drives that only seemed to lead to more fund drives.
posted by loquacious at 8:18 PM on October 9, 2010


I grew up with KCET too and was pretty much raised by their children's programming while sitting around my dad's office. At some point I got too old for Mr. Goodbody, Sesame Street, Square One, and even 3-2-1 Contact and they dropped off my radar, mostly because their non-children's programming was mostly episode after episode of Mystery! with some Red Dwarf tossed in around 1-2am.

It wasn't until a lengthy trip to San Francisco that I could see what a really good PBS station looked like. Canadian and British comedies everywhere, music specials that weren't interrupted every 10 minutes by people asking for donations, threatening to hold the programming hostage until quotas were met in exchange for totebags.

I can't help but think that maybe if KCET would air more of the stuff that I've seen on other stations and spend less time showing marathons of Mystery! and hour after hour of Huell Howser (who is great, don't get me wrong, just in small doses) and running perpetual pledge drives maybe ratings would be a bit better and donations would have gone up.

They never seemed to change their strategy for over a decade and it killed them.
posted by mikesch at 9:06 PM on October 9, 2010


Isn't KCET the home of Tavis Smiley, so to speak? I worked on the web site of that show years ago but cannot say I've followed what has been happening since.
posted by maxwelton at 9:07 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was my station growing up as well. Endless hours were spent in front of the boob tube watching "Electric Company" and "Zoom." I can't imagine KCET as anything other than a PBS station. The PBS and KCET station idents from that era are about the surest portal to childhood memory for me.

According to a statement, "As an independent public television station, KCET will be committed to investing in Southern California by developing, acquiring, producing and distributing content across all media platforms." Given that the content appears to be mostly "news and documentaries from Japan, Canada and elsewhere, along with old feature films," it seems hard to imagine how it will continue to make a go of it.

The content on the main PBS station here is mostly "The Lawrence Welk Show," "Keeping up Appearances," "Last of the Summer Wine," "Masterpiece Mystery," Rick Steves, and the usual arthritic oldie concert shows and Ken Burns documentaries repeated ad infinitum, along with the increasingly incessant pledge marathons. PBS is kind of a security blanket occasionally when nothing else is on, but other than fueling my addiction to the BBC News feed, I rarely watch it.
posted by blucevalo at 9:32 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I gotta say, as another kid who grew up with KCET as his only PBS TV-station, it always irked me that just about every show was made somewhere else. I mean come on wouldn't you expect better of LA/Hollywood's Public TV station?

Damn you WGBH Boston, and your weird mesmerizing logo animation, too!
posted by chimaera at 10:30 PM on October 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


A heretical question: In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:23 PM on October 9, 2010


KTEH 4 LYFE
posted by Avenger at 11:39 PM on October 9, 2010


In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?

No, provided that you're fine with corporations being the only televised news sources and you like it when your kids watch advertisements for sugar and plastic crap.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:45 AM on October 10, 2010 [22 favorites]


It can't have been worse than the Boulder, Colorado PBS station that is filled with new age medical bullshit. Their pledge drives always feature quacks talking about how changing your diet can cure cancer. Oh, and they showed some sort of 9/11 Truther documentary last year. When I moved here I just couldn't believe it because I always associated PBS with things like NOVA and, you know, intelligent shows for smart folks.

(Also they show Democracy Now! in place of the NewsHour. Nothing against democracy now trying to balance out a conservative media landscape, but lets not pretend NewsHour is part of that problem. Hell, it's hands down the best news show on tv.)
posted by boubelium at 12:50 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?

Yes.
posted by NoraReed at 12:57 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nothing against democracy now trying to balance out a conservative media landscape, but lets not pretend NewsHour is part of that problem

I don't think that it's ideological. I suspect that Democracy Now is substantially cheaper to carry.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:23 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?

How else will we get our Sesame Street Old Spice mashups?
posted by Kattullus at 1:42 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, ouch, another KCET kid here. That station taught me to read. Weird to think of channel 28 not playing Sesame Street.
posted by little light-giver at 2:06 AM on October 10, 2010


In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?

Or any local broadcast TV stations?
posted by Ardiril at 2:07 AM on October 10, 2010


provided that you're fine with corporations* being the only televised news sources

* the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
posted by Ardiril at 2:09 AM on October 10, 2010


My late grandma worked for KCET for 25 years. It was a crackerjack organization with very high morale and excellent funding.

What a shame. She'd be appalled.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:18 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


>provided that you're fine with corporations* being the only televised news sources

* the Corporation for Public Broadcasting


As you're well aware, I was referring to for-profit, diversified corporations. When I see comments like that I hear the Pixies' "Gigantic" with the chorus changed to "PEDANTIC!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:21 AM on October 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


"For-profit, diversified corporations" who accept commercial fees from a variety of interests as opposed to a special interest corporation whose flagship news program is funded day to day primarily by United Healthcare and Chevron? Better a pedant than a peasant.
posted by Ardiril at 3:45 AM on October 10, 2010


"For-profit, diversified corporations" who accept commercial fees from a variety of interests as opposed to a special interest corporation whose flagship news program is funded day to day primarily by United Healthcare and Chevron? Better a pedant than a peasant.

Now you're just wrong. CPB and PBS (as well as the production company that produces Newshour) are separate entities. CPB's money comes from the federal government.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:56 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


http://www.pbs.org/newshour/aboutus/funders.html

Where was I wrong? Should I have included BNSF Railway? Today, "separate entities" has lost its identity and become virtually meaningless.
posted by Ardiril at 4:17 AM on October 10, 2010


Where was I wrong?

Jesus. Follow along:

1. I suggested that "corporations," implying "big multinationals who have an interest in controlling information," control major US television news and that PBS is a rare exception.

2. You countered by mentioning the PBS funder The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

3. I responded that obviously I was referring to "for-profit, diversified corporations." Then I called you pedantic.

4. You took exception to this and replied "a special interest corporation whose flagship news program is funded day to day primarily by United Healthcare and Chevron?"

5. I pointed out that CPB does not produce the Newshour or receive money from United Healthcare (it is in fact a sponsor of the Newshour) and that your original counter (number 2 in this list) was false.

That's where you're wrong.

If you want to claim that Chevron is walking Jim Lehrer around on a leash, that's your opinion and I don't know if it's true or not. But you clearly didn't understand the difference between CPB and PBS when you tried to defend your comment (number 4 in this list).
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:44 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


... and you called me pedantic? Who then, as you originally insinuated, is leading around Brian Williams and his ilk? With the obvious exception of Fox, NewsHour is no cleaner than anyone else.
posted by Ardiril at 4:56 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH SHIT ARE YOU ABOUT TO THROW DOWN ON THIS OLD HOUSE?

TOH can't change a lightbulb without a 6-figure budget. It's as worthless a "home improvement" show as they come. Has been for ages.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:29 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ardiril: "With the obvious exception of Fox, NewsHour is no cleaner than anyone else."

Cleaner? I don't know about that. I suppose you're implying that PBS programs succumb to the will of their corporate benefactors? What makes you believe that (if you do)? And just how dirty do you think the other networks are? Personally it seems they're more a victim of playing for ratings at the expense of quality.
But the programming, especially news programming, is generally quite different than broadcast or cable on many levels. I don't know how you could equate them.
posted by Red Loop at 5:32 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


PBS = Socialism.


I'm interested to see if people read that as a good thing, or a bad thing. Send in $50, and I'll continue to share this great message, and send you a commemorative mug.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:30 AM on October 10, 2010


Part of the issue is that the essential educational stuff has moved to cable - Sprout and Nick JR - and more importantly, these shows are available, commercial-free, from most cable companies' "On Demand" service, usually free of charge. Parents grateful for Sesame Street, the Electric company and Reading Rainbow who would write out checks to the local public TV station now support their kids' favorite shows by purchasing merchandise and live event tickets.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 AM on October 10, 2010


In college, most freshmen had an hour on Friday between lunch at the cafeteria and 1:30 Physics lecture. Sometimes I would nap, but usually I would watch the end of Sesame Street and a bit of Mr. Rogers on KCET.

I'm must be the only person in the world who doesn't mind pledge drives. Better than commercials, at least.
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on October 10, 2010


In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?


Tonight on the History Channel: Hitler's Chupacabra!
posted by gimonca at 8:33 AM on October 10, 2010 [18 favorites]


PBS has been charging KCET a lot of money for the privilege of airing the same stuff that other local affiliates air for quite a bit less:


"Between 2004 and 2009, KCET brought in $50 million in restricted production support for its twin English/Spanish child-care series A Place of Our Own and Los Niños en Su Casa. The grants included two from BP, the oil company — $10 million in 2004, paid out over five years, and $15 million in 2007, paid over three years."

" KCET is the primary station—a full member of PBS, with rights to the whole PBS National Program Service and a much higher bill to pay than the three smaller stations. KOCE, KVCR and KLCS are PDP (Program Differentiation Plan) members that buy 25 percent or less of the PBS catalog.

Jerome objects to the PBS pricing policies that require it to pay $7 million a year for the whole NPS while KOCE pays $1 million to select up to a quarter of the schedule that it wants to air."


There's so many more channels that offer quality programming, without the BBC re-treads that PBS needs to really work harder to present relevant series and specials.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:44 AM on October 10, 2010


Damn you WGBH Boston, and your weird mesmerizing logo animation, too!

I see your point, but I loved that WGBH ident. It definitely had that hypnotic vibe.
posted by blucevalo at 8:47 AM on October 10, 2010


WPNE in Wisconsin (Green Bay) had this sweet bumper of cows in a field, and a rising W (like the sun. I loved it, but can't find it online anywhere.)

I think PBS is needed. I think sometimes it's too mainstream/conservative for my tastes, but thank god for Moyers and such. In high school on sick days I'd still watch Sesame Street and Mr Rogers. (Fuck, he's dead... goddamnit, I just remembered that).

It's a shame that there can't be a commercial market for intelligent programming. Every attempt gets watered down to infotainment: (I'll raise you Hitler's Chupacabra and give you )"Little Person" Dinosaurs (Little Dinosaurs?) who have multiple babies and have to raise them before the end of the world in 2012.

Jack Horkheimer will always be a fond memory.

I did a fund raiser during a Red Dwarf marathon and got a cranky liberal telling me he wasn't gonna pledge cuz why should he if the corporations are already buying up time. And I was frustrated and tried to explain that is precisely WHY he should, to help counteract that funding, cuz if he didn't then it would behoove PBS to beg for more from the corps. I don't know if I fully believed it then or now, but it makes sense.

I think Sesame Street jumped the shark when they got that funky little song at the beginning and showed elmo animated and shit, and not the classic intro w/Barkley and all that.

Umm, ok, i'll quit with the nostalgia derail...

So why can't KCET pay 1 Million instead of 7 million? Will it leave them lacking for programming then? It's not like they'd have any access to the rest of it if they up and left... Is it cuz they want to, but PBS says absolutely not 7 million or nothing?
posted by symbioid at 8:56 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn you WGBH Boston, and your weird mesmerizing logo animation, too!

History of the WGBH/Boston logo:
“WGBH's distinctive audio sounder has been aired for more than 30 years, accompanied by different animating graphics. The first such logo appeared in 1972 and can be found on the first episode of ZOOM. The seven-second jingle begins with a bluish green background, with the letters ‘WGBH’ in a yellow Helvetica font zooming away from the viewer. Then, the word ‘Boston’ zooms forward (similar to the V symbol in Viacom's 1976 to 1986 identification), engulfing the whole screen and creating a yellow background, after which the word ‘Presents’ slowly zooms forward in bluish green. This ident is generally believed to be extinct, but it has surfaced on tapes of old WGBH programming (such as the 1970s version of ZOOM, The French Chef, and pre-1978 NOVA episodes) and in video clips. A black-and-white version from 1974 has also surfaced.

The same music is also used in the current ID. The ‘circle outline’ ident, featuring two little lights forming the WGBH logo in orange (once finished, an orange ‘flash’ began behind the outline and changed to reveal ‘Boston Presents’ in its place) began in late 1978 at the beginning of WGBH's national shows and is among the most famous idents such as WNET's ‘Radar’ signature. Sometime in the mid- or late 1980s, this ident, with its jagged electronic tune and dark neon lighting, had been reported to have frightened younger viewers, and in wake of this, was shortened to just the latter half and moved to the end of shows in 1993, when the sound effect was shortened to conform to PBS's desire for shorter station ID's. It is also edited out on some shows with a program's closing credits music playing over the WGBH Boston production card.

The full seven-second music appears in the ‘neon’ station IDs on WGBH itself, along with different animation for the outline logo; one version features the 1993-style version flashing out to reveal the PBS logo, while the other features the outline done at first from the point of view of the tracing line, then zooming out to reveal the 'WGBH' logo.”
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: In this day and age of 200-channel cable systems, does there really need to be a "public broadcasting system" in the US?

Your question asumes that there's no programming on PBS/CPB that the cables can't do better. I haven't experienced that to be true (in all cases). I can't disagree, though, that on many PBS stations the programming has hugely deteriorated and seems now either an endless loop of repeats or primarily geared (except for the children's programming) for people in nursing homes.

I maintain that the exceptions are worthwhile enough to justify PBS's continued existence, but I'm probably in the minority.

Ardiril: With the obvious exception of Fox, NewsHour is no cleaner than anyone else.

Who is cleaner than anybody else? Examples, please? Heck, forget examples (plural). Give me one example.
posted by blucevalo at 9:06 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


TOH can't change a lightbulb without a 6-figure budget. It's as worthless a "home improvement" show as they come. Has been for ages.

NORM ABRAM WILL CUT YOU. AFTER HE MEASURES TWICE.
posted by indubitable at 9:07 AM on October 10, 2010 [14 favorites]


I maintain that the exceptions are worthwhile enough to justify PBS's continued existence ...

Yes ... 'Frontline' is A+ television. BTW -- Mefi's very own Mayor Curley is a web developer for the great 'Frontline' website.

We're fortunate to have WGBH here in Boston. Great programming and production. Other highlights include websites, such as the Forum Network* and Open Vault*.
posted by ericb at 9:24 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love PBS. Now that MSNBC has gone political, they're just about the only intelligent, non-slanted news source on American TV (unless you stay up late and watch BBC World News).

But I'm afraid for PBS' future: producing TV is incredibly expensive, so most of the funding has to come from the federal government. That money is probably going to shrink drastically in the next 10 years. PBS has to keep its head low and stick to popular programs to avoid big cuts.

A much smaller share of NPR's funding comes from government sources, and I give this credit for their willingness to put on unconventional programs. Would PBS ever be able to run Planet Money?
posted by miyabo at 9:45 AM on October 10, 2010


44 comments in, and neither the phases "Julia Child" nor "America's Test Kitchen" appear in this thread. What the fuck?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:18 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"even if Casey Kasem did yell at me (but then, it's one of my best "brushes with fame" anecdotes)."

Did you try to take him out of an upbeat song and into a fucking dead poodle?
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mefi's very own Mayor Curley is a web developer for the great 'Frontline' website.

Exceptional website, too.
posted by blucevalo at 11:06 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I apparently cannot comment in this thread because somebody said a problem with KCET was that it was

"episode after episode of Mystery! with some Red Dwarf tossed in around 1-2am."

and my only response was

This is a bad thing?

Seriously, throw in some Doctor Who and you not only get my beloved Iowa Public Television but also the station I'd choose if the knob was going to break.

(because yes, my TV has a knob, and a not flat screen too)


But seriously, I hope this is an isolated incident. "Because we live in a city where you get two different public television networks over the air" is just about the best argument for going cable-less in Chicago.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2010


We're fortunate to have WGBH here in Boston.

Plus, their 3-year-old LEED-certified studios are way cool, especially with the giant LED panels' Digital Mural that hovers over the Mass Pike.

Today's mural.
posted by ericb at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2010


Re: the pledge drives. I agree with boubelium. If it's not quakery it's ridiculously long, boring specials. I don't know who they think they are appealing to. If they want to raise funds for their shows, why don't they stick to showing those shows people actually want to watch?
posted by lazydog at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2010


But I'm afraid for PBS' future: producing TV is incredibly expensive, so most of the funding has to come from the federal government.

With modern technology, producing nondramatic programming of the PBS sort should be incredibly cheap.
posted by Yakuman at 5:41 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


* the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

It was pedantic, but I admit I laughed. :D
posted by zarq at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2010


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