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KCET Says Goodbye to PBS, Will go Independent January 1st [Updated]

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Those two logos will soon no longer be paired

Those two logos will soon no longer be paired
Los Angeles public television flagship station KCET is severing ties with PBS, it announced today. The station, which is located near Sunset Junction, will become the largest independent public television station in the country on January 1st, meaning PBS national content such as "Sesame Street," "Masterpiece," "Charlie Rose" and "NewsHour" will be cut from the schedule. “After four decades as the west coast flagship PBS station, this is not a decision we made lightly," President Al Jerome said 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."

The main problem is over dues owed to PBS, which were increased 40% to about $7 million just as the economy went downhill. Specifically, the issue was the successful fundraising for their Peabody Award-winning "A Place of Our Own/Los Niños en Su Casa," a how-to series on daycare in English and Spanish, according to Current Magazine.

To put it simply, PBS's forumla for dues is partly calculated on what a station fundraises. So when KCET raised $50 million for "A Place," dues naturally went up. However, that money was restricted to the show production as it came from grants, yet the station was expected to cover for that increase when ponying up to PBS.

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The news is tough for both sides of the issue. KCET will be challenged with generating viewers with newly produced content and without PBS mainstay shows. For PBS, the signal it sends to other affiliates around the country could be devastating and brings up the question, once again, is PBS still important?

"PBS certainly does not play the essential role it once did in the nation's media landscape," media expert Jeffrey McCall of DePauw University told the LA Times. "For years, PBS provided things that couldn't be had from the traditional networks," like public affairs and educational programs. "Now, with cable outlets, not to mention the Internet, the public doesn't rely on PBS for such fare."

Update: PBS has also released a statement:

PBS was notified today of KCET’s intention to withdraw its membership. 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. 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.