Ask Al: A Message to the KCET Family from Al Jerome

KCET's President and CEO Al JeromeYou are important members of the KCET family, so I'd like to begin a conversation with you about the station, PBS, and our future.

Southern California is unique in public television in that there are four PBS-affiliated stations here: KCET, KOCE, KLCS, and KVCR. Of the four, only KCET carries 100% of the PBS lineup. The others are "limited service" in that they are permitted by PBS rules to carry only 25% of the PBS primetime hours. KCET, as the primary station, must pay PBS much more in dues. In fact, we pay three times the dues of the other three stations combined.

You've let us know that you're aware of the duplication among the four stations' schedules - especially during pledge drives - and that you don't like it. We don't either, and we're trying to improve the situation.

The four stations have been in discussions about designing a new way of doing business where we would coordinate to reduce the duplication of programs. We would also cooperate to promote each other's schedules on-air and online. This type of partnership has never been established before, and PBS has said it supports the concept, but there are problems that still have to be overcome.

KCET's PBS dues have increased 40% over four years, at a time when our operating revenue has been decreasing because of the downturn in the economy. Like any other business or family, we must live within a balanced budget. In the last few years, we have cut our expenses and our staff, accepted salary reductions and furloughs, and eliminated the company contribution to our retirement plan. We realized we needed to find a better solution, though, if we were going to continue bringing you the PBS programs you enjoy. This is where the consortium of the four stations came in.

We have asked PBS to allow KCET to become a "limited service station" similar to the others. That way we'd pay lower dues that we could afford, but we'd still be paying more than the other three combined. Under this scenario, you would be able to watch the entire PBS lineup through a coordinated, well-promoted schedule on the four stations.

PBS has not yet agreed to this idea, but is considering it. If PBS rejects this new approach - and only if - KCET will have no other option but to move forward and become the nation's largest independent public television station. We have a strong preference to remain with PBS, and we remain optimistic. But we are prepared if we must change.

We take pride in our prudent financial stewardship of your contributions to ensure KCET's long-range success. But we know that this entire situation has caused some justifiable unrest, and we want to provide you with an easy way to express your feelings and ask me questions. We've set up this forum on KCET.org where you can comment, ask questions, and get answers. I meant it when I said I wanted to start a conversation with you. I hope you'll participate.

Update: Those of you who would like to write in, can do so at this address:

"Ask Al"
KCET
4401 Sunset Blvd
LA, CA 90027

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Ask Al: KCET Goes Independent

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"Under this scenario, you would be able to watch the entire PBS lineup through a coordinated, well-promoted schedule on the four stations."

Unless you're like me and live in Santa Barbara where KCET is my only PBS choice. There are a lot of others that get KCET from repeaters that are probably in the same situation.

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Hi, dbosso:


You are correct. At this time, only KCET is available in Santa Barbara. Once we move forward with our consortium planning, we would certainly be willing to evaluate the technical, legal, and cost aspects of providing the other three stations' signals to our transmission systems in the outlying areas. Thanks.


Al

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I don't see where this "forum" is other than your comments area, Mr. Jerome, so I'll discuss your decision here.

I think you're mistakenly giving the squeaky wheel too much grease. I think your idea to request being a limited station is good, but I worry you're too concerned with overlapping content complaints. Sure it's not always convenient for some programming to be simultaneously broadcasting on two PBS stations, but that's a "rich man's problem" if you ask me.

It is my opinion (even though demographics support it) that the average PBS viewer and the average viewer of cable broadcasting such a TLC, Discovery, Science Channel, HGTV, etc, are in fact, the same person.

However, PBS is "boring" comparatively thanks to culturally significant (though terribly unwatchable) performance programming, such The Met, Masterpiece Mystery, and Carnegie Hall. Additionally, the BBC content is redundant; we can obtain that programming elsewhere. Other news and op/ed programming such as Washington Week and the News Hour are much more valuable.

However, PBS's children's programming is second to none, and the instructional and leisure programming is top notch. I genuinely think PBS is more engaging, enriching, and entertaining than ever.

That being said, these old staples that only appeal to anglophiles without BBC access, are killing the viewership, and subsequently, the donations.

What's truly outrageous is that I donate every year, because the telethons keep showing peeks of these amazing specials and jaw-dropping television, that NEVER makes it to the airwaves any other time.

I'm forced to only enjoy PBS during the telethons.

Please cut the boring content, save money, and broadcast that magnificent stuff you keep teasing us with when you have your hand out. If PBS doesn't start delivering on the "TV worth paying for" promise, then I can begin watching this stuff online.

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Hi, Seven Bates,


Thank you, for your thoughts on our programs. I find it interesting that you enjoy the pledge drive programming much more than the normal PBS schedule. Others feel just the opposite. This is what makes public television so interesting; the diversity of the audience's taste.


Let me clarify one point. We are not interested in broadcasting our programs at the same time as any of the other PBS stations in Southern California. Our goal is to differentiate our lineup from the others as much as possible.


Thanks for taking the time to write.


Al

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First of all, I should say that I have been a KCET fan for as long as I can remember and I am usually sitting in front of my TV on Saturday ready to watch your British comedy block (something that sadly doesn't seem to exist anymore).
I am saddened and disturbed by the turn that I have seen your station(s) take recently. You have become repetitive to the point of being maddening.

World for example (an addition I was thrilled to see) will simply repeat two programs all day long. Do you not want me to watch your station for more than an hour a day?

Now your main channels are doing the same thing. How many times are you going to show this Big Band thing? I am disheartened to see this down turn in your scheduling. Its as if you don't want me to watch your station more than once a week. You used to be a mainstay of my viewing and now I am constantly disappointed because I tune in to find the same program I have already seen five times that week. Do you not have the programming to show other things or are you actively trying to discourage regular watchers like me?

I was once a big fan, but I am quickly growing cold to your maddening repetition. Was once a fan and I am now simply burned out.

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Coordinating your efforts with the other PBS stations in the area is a good idea. There is a lot of duplication in programming and simultaneous pledge drives are enough to chase one away from PBS forever. It would be deeply regrettable if KCET had to withdraw from PBS and carry on as an independent public TV station. I don’t know how this would work or which PBS shows, if any, you might broadcast. However, if you were to stop broadcasting News Hour or Masterpiece there would no longer be a reason for me to continue as a subscriber (one person’s boring is another person’s treasure). I hope you can come to an agreement with PBS – Los Angeles is the nation’s second largest city and not having the full PBS lineup available here would be a real loss.

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Hi, Rob,


Thanks very much for your support of the idea that the four stations in our market should coordinate our efforts to bring the entire PBS lineup. We certainly prefer to remain a PBS station and are optimistic that a solution can be reached. If, however, it is necessary for us to become an independent public television station, we would not expect to be broadcasting PBS programs. We will, however, have an excellent schedule from a variety of sources, including some we already broadcast that do not come to us from PBS .


Thanks for taking the time let me know your thoughts.


Al

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Your programming really sucks now.

1) Why do you show the standard def letterbox versions of programs on the hi def channel? That means that the program now has black borders on all four sides and is super small. That same program will air on KOCE in the hi def version in the correct aspect ratio sometimes at the same time. That is really sad from a station that was one of the first hi def stations.

2) You have 4 digital channels yet two of them are almost all the time showing the same thing. Why does children programming also occupy most of Saturday? Can't you move that programming to 28.2?

3) Where is This Old House? On programs that are continuous, is it too much to ask that the programming time be consistent? Your Saturdays used to have good programming, cooking shows and home improvement shows. Now its children programming all the time.

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I've seen that where I live too, not near LA. One station sometimes shows a doubly-SD version on their HD channel (Maryland Public TV), and the other, WETA in DC will show it right. On the other hand, most times WETA runs a program in stereo sound, and MPT plays it in full 5.1 Surround sound; they even do that with their Independence Day and Memorial Day concerts!!! So for the sound only, I contribute to MPT, not WETA. I wonder if that sort of quality control problem is enough to stop contributions to KCET, too? I hope not, but you never know...

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Hi, FelixC:


It's my understanding that we make every effort to convert any program we get as a letterbox to widescreen before we broadcast it on the HD channel. I am told that this used to be a bigger problem in the early days of the full digital conversion. Would you please let me know specifically which programs you have found with this problem so I can check it out? Thanks.


In answer to your second question, KCET has four digital channels; KCET–HD, KCET Orange, World, and V-Me. The overlap you refer to, I believe, is KCET Desert Cities, which we provide in the Coachella Valley. It is a digital cable channel that we have in partnership with Time Warner Cable. KCET Orange and KCET Desert Cities carry mostly the same programs.


KCET stopped broadcasting "This Old House" a few years ago, but I believe KOCE is carrying it.


Thank you for writing.

Al

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In your video, you give the impression that KCET broadcasts 100% of the PBS lineup. Apparently this is not the case. I think you need to be a little more truthful to your viewers. KCET used to be a good PBS station, but it is not anymore. Maybe its time for new management? As far as quality of the video broadcast, why have you not paid more attention to it? And its has been more than one program/series that was broadcast in low definition when a high definition copy was available.

Maybe KCET should stop being a PBS station, because honestly, I do not think you understand or comprehend what your team has done to a really good station. I stopped giving to KCET several years ago and called to voice my complaints. I can only vote with my pocketbook and I guess many other viewers have done the same.

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I have another question for you Al, do you not know how many channels KCET broadcasts on? KCET, in Los Angeles, broadcasts four different channels over the air. They are 28.1, 28.2, 28.3 and 28.4. And I repeat, four channels in the Los Angeles area. And two of those channels air the same programming for most of the time. I cannot believe as the head of KCET, you do not know how many channels KCET broadcasts on.

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Dear Mr. Jerome,
I watch KCET for Masterpiece, Nova, The News Hour, Antiques Roadshow, the Britcoms, Tavis Smiley, and Huell Howser. If these programs, or a percentage of them, were no longer available, I would not be supporting KCET. (I'm sure if I had children, I would be including the children's daytime programming in my list.) I do NOT like the endless repeats of Irish glamor girls with identical voices, 60's rock bands, and nostalgia music which seem to come with every pledge drive. I avoid KCET during pledge drives, but I have been a faithful member of KCET for many years. I don't send in my membership money to obtain free caps or mugs. I do watch other PBS stations, especially for Britcoms and sewing shows, which KCET does not carry.

It makes some sense to coordinate some shows with KOCE. And I can really understand that it is too expensive for KCET to continue to pay huge sums to PBS in this current economic downturn. It is important to work out a new model for PBS and its local stations. But please avoid getting into a Time-Warner-like showdown situation with PBS. That just doesn't make sense to members/viewers and can easily backfire.

Finally, I have to ask what happened to Masterpiece/Inspector Lewis on Sunday August 8. It just seemed to disappear from the roster with no advance warning and no explanation. That was a great disappoinment to me, as Inspector Lewis is one of my favorite shows. If someone wanted to drive us further toward Netflix and away from KCET, the fastest way to do it would be to dump Masterpiece.

Good luck with developing a new economic model for KCET.

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Hi, Claireqb:


Thanks for letting me know your thoughts on our programs, it seems that you have the opposite view from seven-bates, whose thoughts appear above. As I said in my previous response, the public television audience has diverse tastes. Of the programs you listed as your favorites, the Britcoms and Huell Houser are not PBS programs. We acquire the Britcoms through a national syndicator, and Huell Howser is produced locally.


Thanks for your support of the idea of coordinating our broadcast schedules with the other public television stations in Southern California. I also appreciate your recognition of the expense of the PBS dues in these current economic times. We are trying to resolve it with PBS, and I remain optimistic

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To answer your question about Masterpiece/Inspector Lewis on Sunday, August 8, we did not air the program because of our pledge drive. I suspect you got the listing from a source other than KCET.org, one that might have only carried the national PBS broadcasting times. I’m very sorry you were mislead by this, and I assure you that we will be scheduling Masterpiece/Inspector Lewis in the future, although we have not yet picked the date.


Thanks so much for your constructive thoughts.


Al

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Al,
You have 4 digital channels already. Why are they not used better? Two seem to always play the same programming. Vary rarely do they differ. You say that you carry 100% of PBS lineup, but that has not been the impression. If I want to see for instance "This Old House", I watch it on KOCE. A few years back, I was watching "On the Road to Spain", KOCE had a consistent schedule to be able to watch it. Only later did I noticed that KCET carried the programming on its low end digital channels.

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I disagree with the writer complaining about the BBC shows. BBC America shows really only a small part of the real BBC, and never shows anything that's on PBS other than their Antiques Roadshow. I also believe you are probably being asked to pay way to much for your PBS programming. You have broadcast and cable coverage up to 100 miles away, and the other stations don't even have to try to provide other than local coverage (OC, San Bernadino, LACPS? What's up with that??).

Basically, the problem is that PBS is asking for way too much money from you guys. It's a non-profit extorting (my, such a strong word) from another non-profit, when they are only a management firm, not producing a danged thing. Is the cost based on potential viewers, or on size of the city of license, or the actual number of viewers? I hope you have good luck with it. I used to worry about KCET because it was the largest market PBS UHF station; but if you're on cable all over the Southland, that should make it a bit easier. How about letting the other stations carry "V-Me" or maybe KMEX can carry that as a public service, or maybe put more frequent money requests on the the OC sub-channel (28.2). Maybe people will pay extra to continue to enjoy that. Your station should not have to suffer while, somehow, WNET, WHYY, WGBH and KQED are always making money. Best of luck in an unfair situation.

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Hi northofdc,


KCET's dues are based on a complicated formula that applies to all stations who are PBS members. There are many factors that go into the formula, including the amount of non-federal funding that each station raises. Population is also a factor. The actual audience a station gets is not part of the formula.


Our PBS dues increased 40% over four years, just before the economy went into a downturn. That increase was due primarily to the success KCET enjoyed raising money for the production of local and national programs. For several years we paid these increases by cutting our own expenses and staff, but, with the economic downturn, our contributions from viewers and corporate underwriting have dropped significantly, and it is impossible for us to continue to pay our full dues of nearly $7 million a year. We have been in active discussions with PBS about this for about nine months. We have not yet reached a solution. We remain optimistic.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.


Al

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For people who complain about BBC America it is true they hardly show Brit comedy or mysteries it mostly Brit version of Torchwood and Star Trek TNG

Also I am same if KCET go indepedneat fine play some old movies you used to back in 1980s like silent movies in late night hour I remember I think it was KCET they used show old school movies from MGM Universal especially Lon Chaney Sr horror movies

How about developing another news show like KOCE show Worldfocus or something like that I know you guys have BBC world news how about show it at 11pm night just move Tavis Smiley to 11:30 and Charley Rose to 12:00 to compete with Leno and other comedians or better YET nightline

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Hi, Kelly1:

If KCET becomes an independent public television station we will have an excellent schedule of local, national, and international programs that I think our viewers will enjoy. It is still too early, however, to announce our plans. We are still carrying the entire PBS lineup, and, as I have said in other responses, we are continuing to have discussions with PBS about being able to continue as a PBS station beyond the end of the year.


Thanks for your comments.

Al

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Consolidating with the other area stations to save money is a good idea, I think. I certainly hope PBS will go for it.

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Thanks, Wayne for the support. I appreciate it.
Al

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You know what you could make big time learning channel with KCET Orange or KCET World if you really think about it consolate until one learning channel OC Channel doing that part time put your older progamming on that feed

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This situation, while sad, was perfectly predictable even a decade ago when I was KCET's programming director. Then as now, KCET needed to find local alternatives that reflected and responded to the interests of more of its community; and it needed to seek out new, more affordable production models for those programs. Both of these objectives could have been happily achieved by reaching out to L.A.'s enormous body of up-and-coming talent, many of whom would have loved to produce for PBS at a fraction of Hollywood costs had they been given some little seeds of support. The reason: they'd get to produce shows they truly cared about - the same reason viewers still, in principal, look to public television for something outside the commercial mainstream. Needless to say, not everything they produced would be strictly local in scope. Remember "Monty Python"? "The Prisoner"? "An American Family"? "I, Claudius"? "Berlin Alexanderplatz"? Or even KCET's own "Cosmos" and "Hollywood Theater Presents"? How long has it been since this kind of passion has been consistently felt in PBS programming?

Answers are out there, as are people willing and creative enough to carry them out. When stations like KCET once again recognize non-commercial status as liberating rather than restricting, they'll start to win back the "members" who are still the heart and soul of public television.

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Thank you for explaining what's going on and why the pledge drives. We have been KCET subscribers for many years and are grateful every night for the wonderful programs, from the News Hour through Masterpiece Theater to Nova, and many others. Going online is a super bonus too - one night I asked Paul Solman a question and got a personal answer! Watched Dickens movies and went online to find background. Can't get that anywhere else. So I am most anxiously hoping that you can work out a deal with PBS.

Sara van Dyck Chesluk

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Thanks very much for your support, Sara. As you have read in my other responses, I am optimistic about our future, and I hope that our partnership with PBS remains a part of the service we provide to Southern California. We like those programs, too.
Al

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Dear Al:
Change is hard, KCET does an excellent job, and does stand out
from the rest in So. Cal. The reason you have the support you do
realisticly is due to the dues payed and earned by PBS. People know
the info presented does not contain a slant or spin. Please don't
even consider going it alone, you will fail.

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I agree with you about two things: change is hard and the importance of PBS programs. We must, however, be responsible for maintaining the financial health of the station. Our PBS dues increased 40% over 4 years, but our revenue has decreased due to the economic downturn we are all dealing with in our lives. Our contributions are down. Corporate and foundation underwriting is down, too. We have cut our expenses significantly, but we haven't yet been able to reduce our PBS dues, and we can no longer pay the same freight, regardless of how good the programs are. That's what the discussions with PBS have been about. PBS certainly has its own business issues they are wrestling with, and I am sympathetic. I remain optimistic that we can find a meeting place.
Al

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Dear Al:
I live in Southern San Luis Obispo County, in Nipomo, and only receive KCET, not your other affliated or digital stations. I do not watch any channel other than KCET - and I watch every night. If you "spread" your programming to four stations, the odds are I will not be able to watch most of the programs I am accustomed to. In which case, I will stop my automatic donations and my donation to KCET in my will. Why should I if I can no longer watch my programs?
Thank you,
Carol Lindley

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Hi, Carol. I certainly understand your concern for being able to see your favorite programs on KCET, because you don't get the other Southern California PBS stations. Let's stay positive about our being able to work this out with PBS. By the way, what are your favorite programs on KCET?
Al

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Mr. Jerome: I really sympathize with the difficult position you're in. Shrinking donations. Increasingly atomized TV markets. Etc.

My concern is that if you leave PBS, you'll lose the NewsHour, Frontline, Nova, Sesame Street, Masterpiece Theatre, American Experience, American Masters, etc. etc. etc. How will you ever replace that many hours of programming with anything approaching that quality?? Even a national network would have trouble creating that many hours of new quality programming from scratch. You're just a regional station.

In the meantime, why should I continue pledging to KCET when you seem poised to drop all my favorite programs?

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Thanks for recognizing our situation. I, in turn, recognize your concern, too. We certainly hope that we will be able to continue to broadcast PBS programs. Only if we cannot reach and agreement with PBS will we become an independent public television station. I can assure you that we are able to acquire and produce many wonderful local, national, and international programs that we feel our audience would enjoy, but our preference is to remain affiliated with PBS. We'll keep you informed about our progress. Thanks for writing.
Al

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" can assure you that we are able to acquire and produce many wonderful local, national, and international programs that we feel our audience would enjoy..."

You can't "buy" Newshour quality off the shelf.

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I have watched KCET since the mid-60s, except for short periods when I have lived elsewhere, and my husband and I have nearly always been members. I have sometimes watched KOCE and KPBS. I frequently watch KVCR.I have no objections to the shared approach, at least while the current financial problems continue. However, I hope that if the consortium is set up, you will co-ordinate with the major cable companies so that all stations can be made available to all the customers, even if some have to be on the "extra charge" list. We only get KVCR by a fluke of the weather damaging some of Charter's facilities, even though KVCR is local, here (Big Bear). Carrying only part of the PBS programming on each station will also allow for more local programming (I am a fan of KVCR's "I Remember Television"). This lemon could be turned into very nice lemonade.

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Thanks, Portia, for your response. We recognize that if the consortium of stations moves forward, we will want to meet with the cable companies to demonstrate how the PBS programs will be apportioned among the stations, as well as how our local programs would significantly differ. This differentiation would be the justification for requesting that all of the stations be carried.
Al

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I am just going to list the shows that I watch on PBS knowing I will miss something.Frontline, History Detectives,American Experience,Anything Ken Burns has done,Huell Howser,Masterpiece Mystery,American Masters,POV,NOVA, NOVA scienceNOW. with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
PBS World is excellent. Your station and KVCR before their new 24.2 channel line up are far superior to KOCE who rarely shows any of the above but constantly has, what amounts to, 90 minute infomercials. KLCS is interesting once in a blue moon unless you want to watch local government at a standstill, cooking shows or Ask this old house. KVCR is well on the way to being the same.
You are the last hope for over the air broadcast viewers who once had a choice of 11 interesting PBS channels to choose from. I,myself, don't mind overlap as somehow it allowed us to see everything PBS can provide.
One last mention. I dislike, from the core of my being, the automobile restoration show on 28.2. It not only belongs on Speed Channel. But if it lands there, it will be the worst auto restoration show in their line up, if not in the history of television.Put Jack Benny back on and toss this one in the crapper.
I have watched KCET since I was in my teens and do appreciate over 30 years of intelligent television.Thank You very much.

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I appreciate your comments, Bill. I'm not sure I understand it when you say that we "once had a choice of 11 interesting PBS channels to choose from." When was that?
Al

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The idea of sharing the full PBS schedule between the 4 L.A. area stations will work fine for people in L.A., but it will not work very well for some areas served by low power translators. Here in Bakersfield we will still get the full PBS schedule from a translator of KVPT from Fresno. Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Victorville, Ridgecrest, etc won;t be so lucky. Broadcasting all 4 stations on one digital channel is a possibility, but 3 of them would have to be standard definition only, and the existing subchannels would have to go. I really like the World subchannel and don't want to lose it. Dropping V-Me from the Bakersfield translator would be fine, as we also get it from KVPT's translator. We also get the Create subchannel from KVPT, so don't replace World with Create. I hope something can be worked out that will continue to allow viewers in outlying areas to receive the full PBS schedule somehow, and that in Bakersfield we will not lose World.

Any chance of convincing Bright House cable in Bakersfield to carry KCET in HD and to carry the subchannels? Right now they only carry the main channel in SD and none of the subchannels. To receive them, I have to flip my A/B switch and use the over the air signal. Receiving them from cable would be much more convenient. They already carry KVPT in HD and also carry it's Create and V-me subchannels. They should do the same for KCET. If they do agree to carry them, be sure to insist they leave them in clear QAM unencrypted form.

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You raise some challenging issues that we would certainly plan to address should the consortium move forward.
Al

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Hey Al if you drop the American Masters Masterpiece I may stop watching KCET I just hope you could get agreement with PBS I think you may have do LUNCH with PBS see what really going on

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The "pledge breaks" are absolute disasters! Why should I listen to a monotonous description of the beauties of KCET over and over again? My point: if you can't find a better way to raise money, go commercial. I'd rather see a clever, humorous, ad from a for-profit company than the tired pledge break format you now use. I think you business model is broken and you need to find a way to fix it- accepting commercial advertising may be the best way forward.

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We certainly agree with you that our pledge drives need improvement. The solution, however, is not to become a commercial station. We operate under a non-commercial educational license, and that would not change, regardless of whether we remain a PBS station or become an independent public television station.

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"Only KCET carries 100% of the PBS lineup." Al, how can we have a conversation with you if you lie to us and are not truthful. You stated in a previous reply that KCET stopped carrying some PBS shows, but in your video statement and at the top of this page, you state the KCET carries 100% of the PBS lineup. So which is it? If you stop carrying some PBS programs, how can you make a statement that KCET carries 100% of the PBS lineup. Please explain your rational for making that incorrect and untruthful statement.

It has been my impression that the other PBS stations in the Los Angeles area actually carry more PBS programming than KCET.

In another reply, you stated that 28.1 and 28.2 have different programming, but a look at today's schedule on Saturday, 28.1 and 28.2 share 17 hours of programming in a 24 hour period. Do you not agree that this is a waste of a good resource? I do not understand why sharing programming with the other three stations would be of any benefit since KCET does not utilize its four digital stations to their fullest potential currently and KCET does not carry 100% of the PBS lineup. And let me remind you, that KCET is a broadcast station and not a cable channel.

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Hi Al,

I've been meaning to write to you. I feel have a solution to all of KCET's money problems. Have you considered replaying all of Masterpeice Theater from the beginning as well as all of the Live from the Met operas starting with the first broadcast of La Boheme with Luciano Pavarotti and Renat Scotto, not to mention Great Performances? Most people have not had a chance to see these, and it sure beats watching Things That Aren't Here Anymore over and over! I know that I would personally be in thrilled and in heaven to see these!!!!!
I hope you will give this serious consideration and ask others what they think of the idea.

Sincerely

Craig Farnham

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Your suggestion is interesting, but, unfortunately, when PBS licenses any program, it allows for a limited number of releases over a specified number of years. Most of those old programs you are referring to would be out of rights. It might be possible for PBS to re-license some of them, but often the costs are often prohibitive.

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Thank you, Mr. Jerome, for this open forum. I hope all participants can be civil and avoid loaded words like "sucks" and "boring" as some users have above.

I like both the PBS and KCET programming. I do not subscribe to cable, so I get most of my "good" television from your channels, which I far prefer over KOCE. I don't watch PBS programming online, either, so I do rely on KCET to access the programming.

As a former fundraising executive, I feel that most of the pledge drives are very well-run and great, but as a fashion afficionado, I feel that the Cardinali show that aired did not do justice to Marilyn Lewis, Cardinali or KCET. Todd Newton was absolutely the wrong person to host the show; he stumbled and could not speak about women's wardrobe. I feel having the commercials that aired about the auction was enough to pique interest and that Todd Newton's interview was poorly executed and the cinematography was not appropriate for couture fashion. I wish that KCET had started an endowment far sooner than this millenium and feel it is imperative that a board member or other wealthy friend of the station lead the way, as Eli Broad did for MOMA, to step up to be an example to help with an endowment for the station. Unfortunately, I don't have the capacity to do that myself, or I would.

Thank you for your leadership and bringing such wonderful programming to our region.

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I appreciate your nice comments about the station and its programming. I'm sorry that the Cardinali program didn't meet your expectations.

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Hi Al,
I'm a fan and supporter of KCET, and I know that the economy has definetly effected the support needs to operate, just as it has with so many NPO's.
I'm an executive based here in SoCAL who represents a major 'E' recycling company, and we're launching a new fundraiser program with NPO's, Independent & Public Broadcasters, etc. and I believe that our fundraiser program could help KCET to generate new revenue, and to sustain its important work. Al, I would be happy to contact you or you can contact in order to share complete details and refernces of my program and services. Thank you. CJ.
c2it@charter.net

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I like that idea show reruns of Masterpiece theatre with old school host Alstair Cooke that be cool

Or better yet show some of old school programmings via NOVA in 1970s into 80s or other stuff I recently saw episode of Body Buddies on KLCS Channel 58.3 other night LATE

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Dear Al, I am 78 years old and it is a family tradition to watch Jim Lehrer on the News Hour. My mother and I watched together till the day she died and now my daughter and I continue the tradition. I so look forward to 6:00 each evening and sitting down to be with Jim and I do not leave K.C.E.T. So if you must form a consortium please keep the News Hour. I am a long time KCET member and cannot imagine being without you.

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Just to clarify my earlier comment for those unfamiliar with PBS history, when I mentioned "An American Family" I was referring to the great documentary about the Loud family, which pioneered reality television 25 years before it became a genre - not the perhaps well-meaning but unmemorable "Latino drama" produced by KCET in the 2000s. And by "Hollywood Theater" I meant the legendary series of the late Seventies and Eighties, filmed right in KCET's own studios and featuring then up-and-coming actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Lange, Whoopi Goldberg and Anthony Hopkins - not the bloated "PBS Hollywood Presents" productions of my era. These earlier titles seem almost to mock the lack of daring and inventiveness within much of PBS today.

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Hi Al, We decreased viewing of KCET over the last decade as alternative cable programs better met our needs without so many pledge drives. Radio PBS has done significant coverage of financial problems at KCET. There was a comment that KCET has 12 Vice Presidents and a higher administrative cost than other local PBS stations. You highlight the royalty expense paid for full PBS status, but so many executives during decreasing revenue implies a broader problem. You mention decreasing staff to reduce expense. How much of reduced staff involved fewer executives? How does your organization structure and salaries compare with KOCE? A KCET executive was interviewed on PBS radio and said that your objectives included community support outside of programming. I had no idea of what that implied but it left me with the impression that some VPs were supporting programs weren't justified on the basis of satisfying KCET viewer needs.
I am glad you are asking for comments. I hope it leads to change.

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Hi Ed. KCET has reduced its staff from 169 to 129 since 2007- nearly 24%- and the number of Vice Presidents by three over that same period- about 21%. Some of the other layoffs were executives below the rank of Vice President. KOCE is a much smaller operation than KCET, especially in the areas of production and fund-raising, so comparisons between us are difficult. But KCET is certainly comparable to most of the larger stations with as much production activity.

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Mr. Jerome:
I watch KCET at my home in Santa Maria from the translator at San Luis Obispo. I've been a loyal member since I put up an outside antenna and dropped the cable 15 years ago.
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I love the traditional PBS programs and would like to see all them continue, but I am very skeptical that PBS will agree to the "deal" that you have outlined. Realistically, I think that we must assume that KCET will be going independent. If I were PBS, I certainly wouldn't agree to allowing my product to be fragmented such as you are suggesting.
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The bright side of independence is that the millions of dollars that go annually to PBS should then be available to develop local LA based talent, but it will take some time for local programming to actually develop. Another possible advantage is that we viewers might experience a enhanced sense of "ownership" in "our" local station since won't be part of a faceless larger corporation that isn't in tune with our regional interests. In my opinion, this is fraught with great risk because if some of these programs bomb, viewers may well abandon KCET altogether. I understand your peril and that you are indeed between that proverbial "rock and a hard place" financially and in terms of replacement content, but I don't think you have any choice but to plan for this eventuality.
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Assuming that I'm correct and KCET does go independent, what kind of shows would viewers such as myself - tied to the translators as we are - expect to have available to us? What would be a typical programming schedule?
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Thanks for all your hard work and concern through this especially difficult time.

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PBS understands that the Los Angeles market is the most complex in the nation with four PBS affiliates carrying its programs. They have indicated interest and support for the consortium approach, but it certainly is new and untried, so they are cautious. We don't yet know whether PBS will agree to work with us to test it. I concur with your "bright side" assessment of an independent station, and certainly there is risk involved. But we just cannot continue to do things the same way if it's not working. We are still in discussions with PBS, so we haven't yet released what the program schedule would be if KCET became an independent station in January. Obviously, if we remain with PBS, this will impact our scheduling decisions.

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I have been supporting KCET for over 40 years, and never has its programming been as bad as it is now. The endless repeats of inane programming from the past to save money and fill time is truly offensive. Fund raising is not programming.

You want to direct viewers to look to several other stations for some PBS programming to make things easier for KCET. Do you realize that many viewers do not receive all those stations? We receive only KCET.

If you take away the gems of your offerings (News Hour, Nova, Masterpiece Theatre, opera, concerts [the stuff one of your correspondents labeled as "boring" and expendable, which is truly bizarre]), there is nothing left to support. The prospect is extremely sad.

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I sympathize with you on the repetitive pledge drive programming. It's a problem made worse by the fact that we have three stations airing the same shows: KCET, KOCE, and KVCR. I assure you that none of us do it to save money, but to get the contributions to keep our stations going. Part of our interest in the consortium is to do a better job during pledge drives. As far as "the gems" of our schedule, we certainly hope that we will be able to keep them in our lineup. That's what our discussions with PBS have been about.

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When broadcasting was analog, I could receive all four SoCal PBS stations over the air with my 'rabbit ears.' Now I cannot bring in KVCR at all, which currently doesn't matter because there are several sub-channels on the other three, which gives me more than enough to watch.
I find I watch KLCS-Create and KCET-World the most, and it has been a while since KOCE has carried more than an occasional (repeat) program that I consider worth watching.
It will not be easy to decide how to apportion PBS programming among the SoCal stations in a way that does not reduce everyone's experience such that they withdraw their membership support. I wish you every success with this effort..

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Thank you very much for your support. The four PBS stations in SoCal are ready to begin work on the apportionment of the PBS programs so that our viewers get the best nightly choices and complete information on where to tune in.

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Dear Mr. Jerome, KCET has been in my daily viewing line-up since moving to the central coast. We tape Jim Lehrer News hour daily because it comes on during dinner hour. Last week I found that I had taped Vme instead. I thought it might be my tv taping but ,no, the same was on the other set. I wrote an email "to whom it may concern" about the problem because to my knowledge there was no disclaimer or schedule change announced. This has happened before and I must tell you it is annoying when there is no response to queries. I appreciate you don't have an 800 number for financial reasons. But in your efforts to be responsive to your viewership I would think a call back explanation would be on the front burner of your public relations stove. Thank you for taking the time to read about my issue. Judith

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For my personal mental well being, should KCET become an independent station, would I then have access to the PBS National Satellite Service?

DirecTV currently blocks access owing to the presence of KCET.

I would not like to live without the PBS Newshour w/Jim Lehrer, without Masterpiece Theatre, NOVA, Need to Know, etc., etc., etc.

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I don't know what PBS would do about the national feed. Remember that even if KCET becomes an independent public television station, KOCE, KLCS, and KVCR will remain PBS stations, so there may not be a change in PBS' position on the national satellite feed.

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Mr. Jerome -
Your talk of a "consortium" involving program scheduling with other PBS stations smacks of antitrust and anti-competitive behaviour. An illegal activity.


What KCET needs is to get back to basics. Look back 20 years of so at your programming then and how drastically it has changed, in my opinion, for the worse.


Take for example pledge programming. It appears the Hollywood music industry has become the program manager for these periods.


Mr. Jerome, have you considered perhaps it's time you personally "exit-stage-left"? Time for new blood and new thinking.


Time the KCET Board of Directors made some hard decisions. Back to basics may be an old cleshay, but here and now it has the ring of truth.

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Any consortium business that the stations would engage in would comply with all laws and be under the advice of our lawyers. There would be no illegal activity.

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Just one question, Al:
Aren't YOU tired of Patti Paige and Perry Como (and all the other oldies in the music world) yet??? I love big bands too, but come on...

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KCET has long been a reliable, alternative to the other stuff on TV in the community. But more recently, as you are making your case for indepencence, you seem to be focused inward rather than on the audience. PBS was originally planned as a place where programming that would not appear on network ( and now cable) TV could be seen. But the quality of those alternative shows is no where what it once was. That may not be the fault of the station...but the station does choose what to program.

My bigger complaint is not knowing what is actually on KCET anymore. You put out a schedule on your website and a highlights dowloadable schedule as well. Frequently what is on those schedules is not what is on my TV screen...case in point the recent telecast of South Pacific from Lincoln Center. It was listed as appearing on Wednesday August 18 and again on Sunday August 22. The Sunday showing never happened. This is not the first time. And telling me that KCET specials is what is planned does not open my checkbook.

If you want to garner community support for the future of KCET being reliable and truthful in the community is important. It is hard for me to be financially supportive if I don't believe in the product.

I hope the negotiations with PBS are successful and that KCET will carry the PBS national offerings. If that is not the case I don't want to be asked to support a day long schedule of Huell Howser and the like.

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If KCET goes the consolidation route, we here in central Cal will renew our efforts to have Charter carry KQED instead. We would have preferred them over you a long time ago, but Charter had the argument that PBS is PBS wherever the local station is based. You will have made that distinction at last. Thank you!

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In general, KCET is our favorite TV station in LA. We plan to move to the San Luis Obispo area in a few months, and will be searching for how to receive you up there.
We especially like Masterpiece/Mystery and classical music and opera shows, nature shows about birds, plus Huell Howser and Antiques Roadshow. We watch Formula 1 racing on Speed and the news locally. Otherwise, we do Netflix for movies and TV dramas without commercials.
We are concerned about some recent programming on KCET such as the current Yoga stuff that seems to be on quite often, which rather than actually showing how to do yoga, is just an endless commercial for how beneficial it is to do yoga. With just yoga and big band/retro music, we are tuning you out most of the time lately. We are sorry to hear about how tough times are financially for the station - we suspected that might be the reason for these ads posing as shows - we were hoping that at least they are paying you to appear, for an audience of viewers with high tolerance for being pitched at. We also finally figured out to check your schedule on kcet.org rather than the Guide on our TV, which is wrong more often than right concerning KCET lately and was causing frustration.
In spite of some negatives, we intend to continue to send in an annual membership check, in December. It would be nice if you could stop sending solicitations the rest of the year. We prefer to get program information online so don't need the mailed newsletter either.

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If public television has a future, it is on cable. Think of it. No more endless beg-a-thons, no more repeats of the music of the '30's and '40's. Because it had a hand in producing many of the acclaimed programs of years past, WGBH, Boston, should be the national PBS station providing programing via cable to a greater audience than it currently has. Same programing, no beg-a-thons. I'll buy that!

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DEAR AL: I can see how very eager people are to answer your invitation to "converse!" Maybe it's because you have this spot so well hidden on your terrible new website. You guys deserve to go down the tubes - quit blaming the viewers who don't contribute - who would want to continue pouring money into a losing operation??????

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Mr Jerome, why is this comment section so difficult to find on the website if you're really so interested in highlighting comments and questions and starting a dialogue? Make it easier or stop running those endless spots featuring you.

As for KCET's troubles, I'm sure the station has reached its sorry state because of both the economy (not under your control), but also, and let's be honest, management shortcomings and an absence of vision and creativity by you and your abundance of vice-presidents. Rotten, dreary as dirt pledge programming and KCET's weak performance as a national public television player are examples of the station's decline. If things have gotten so bad under your leadership that KCET is considering severing ties to PBS, maybe that's a sign that you should leave as well.

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16 Sep 2010

Dear Al:

As a supporter of KCET since it first went on the air, I strongly support KCET and its programming. When the station first went on the air I received the signal with a large antenna and preamplifier, and was instrumental in establishing the two TV translators which currently serve the Santa Barbara area. A small non profit corporation was established to purchase and install the equipment. The original channels were 55 and 61. After new regulations were established to hold corporate officers personally liable for any personnel associated with the corporation, the equipment was donated to KCET, and the channels were changed to 26 on Gibraltar Peak, and 28 on Broadcast peak. These stations are still on the air and serving the people of Santa Barbara, and on call maintenance is provided by Jeremy Howard and me on an on call basis. I mention this historical information so you will know how committed I am to providing KCET to the people of the Santa Barbara area. For this reason I would like to put my two cents worth in as to how KCET can possibly improve their financial situation.

1. Have a long talk with PBS about the costs of their programming. PBS personnel need to evaluate their personnel and programming costs and cut them until they can charge decreased costs to their members. It appears the attitude from stations and PBS is: "here is what we charge, you need to figure out how to pay it", rather than, "here is what you can afford, we need to get our costs under control so you can afford it". In general PBS programs are excellent, but PBS needs to decide in decreasing order of popularity which ones can be cut and which ones to continue. They cannot do everything they would like to do as the stations simply cannot afford to support everything.


2. Renegotiate agreements on re-running programs. The program producers would like to have a continuing source of income from their productions. Sesame street is an example of programs that could be re-run. Kids from years ago are grown, and the new kids could enjoy those programs and they wouldn't be re-runs for them. You may say the producers won't agree to this. Well, then don't purchase their programs with that restriction in place. If they can't sell the program with the re-run rights, then they will have to modify their agreements to sell them. If all the PBS stations won't buy programs without low or no cost re-runs the producers will have to change their ways. Huell Howser produces his own programs so he has control over the re-runs, and collects fees even though the work has been done and requires no effort from him except to collect the re-run fees. This kind of attitude has to stop with all programs across the gamut of PBS programs.


3. Analyze your operating costs on a per hour basis, and if you aren't able to pay the cost of operations during certain hours, then go off the air. I don't know what your costs are but the time from midnight to 5:00 am might cost you more to be on the air than off the air. If donations and corporate support don't support a program or time slot replace it with something that will. Sure, viewers will complain, but make sure they understand that if they don't support the program, it will not be put on the air. The local NPR station during their fund raisers specifically state: "Car Talk is an expensive program, and if you don't support it, we will drop and get something else". You might do the same thing and say prior to Nova: "Nova costs XX number of dollars per new episode and XX number of dollars per re-run. If you want this program you need to support it with your dollars". Few if any viewers know what KCET pays per program.


4. Publish on your website detailed cost and income information. Post the salary and fringe benefits of each employee, and specifically what their responsibilities are. What do the vice presidents make and what do they do? How much per hour does it cost to operate the transmitter? What is the cost of the cameras used for Socal connected? What is the total production cost of Socal Connected and break down those costs? Is the program sold to other stations, and does it make money? Let the viewers find out for themselves how the money is spent.

5. Talk to the labor union associated with the workers at the station and make clear to them that you simply cannot pay workers exorbitant salaries, and ask them to make some concessions in their compensation. I was a member of NABET and the work rules cost the station I was working for a lot of money. Finally the station decided to break the union. They terminated everyone in the union, and offered them their old job back at reduced pay. It was an unpleasant experience, but they broke the union, and decreased their expenses. In the current economic climate, many would like to have a job at reduced pay than no job, and for those who opt to be terminated, there are others willing to take their place. It would not be a pleasant situation and it would be a public relations nightmare, but it is something that could be considered.

6. At the opening of programs when stating who has supported it list the amount of the donation. During Nova for example show the amounts provided by the donors that make the program possible, and the amount of donations from local donors, and show clearly what KCET is paying for the program.


7. Contact the satellite providers and make sure you are on their satellite and available in places like Santa Barbara. I was on the Dish satellite and received all the Los Angeles PBS stations. I am now on Direct TV and only receive one national PBS distribution. I’ve called Direct TV, and they said I should talk to KCET about getting permission (?) to go on the satellite. I called KCET and never heard back as to how I should proceed to get KCET available in Santa Barbara. There are a lot of people using satellite, and those on Direct don’t even know KCET exists. Support from these viewers would help in supporting the programming.

8. Try to make viewers in areas served by translators aware that the station is available, and that all the sub channels are available when receiving the station off the air. Unfortunately the satellite and cable systems only put on the main channel, not the sub channels. People don’t understand that if they would put up an antenna and receive the station off the air, they would get more programming than they get on cable of satellite. I get calls from people who are interested in off the air reception, but have no idea it is available or how to do it until they hear it from a neighbor or from me in a conversation about Public Television. Some people try to get it on rabbit ears or no antenna, and conclude it is not available. With the installation of an antenna, they would have a great signal. It would also help if you could convince the satellite and cable providers to put all the sub channels on their systems. Possibly you could use your lawyers in Washington to convince the FCC to study this issue and change the requirements for carrying PBS stations.

9. Evaluate local productions and determine whether or not they are paying their expenses. Socal Connected is an expensive program with expensive personnel to produce it. There may be other local programs that are not paying their expenses and either need to be eliminated or substantially reduced and their scope to cut expenses.

10. Consider terminating personnel who are not absolutely necessary to the operation. With reduced local production determine who can be terminated. This is not a pleasant alternative, but with 129 employees, it would seem that with automation that is a lot of employees to operate a station with little local production. Only you can make that decision, as I am not qualified to make that kind of decision, but that is a suggestion.

11. Upon looking at your website under the “about” tab, there is no mention of the additional translator channels that can be received in the various areas. There is a map of the coverage area, but with no channels listed, how is a prospective viewer to know which channel to tune?

These are only suggestions; I fully support what you are doing, but I understand you are having financial difficulties. You are not alone and in this economic climate and things are not going to improve in the near future. In good times budgets were allowed to grow both at PBS, NPR, and local PBS and NPR stations. It is time to cut back and get back to the basics, and if necessary to cut some programs and local productions. While funding the station is important, in these lean times, you need to put most of your effort into cutting expenses and increasing efficiency. If that means working with less people on the staff, so be it. In better times, maybe they can come back, but when funding is short, layoffs are in order. Unfortunate, but true.

I would be very interested in your comments to my proposals, and what, if any actions are being taken to implement cost cutting measures both at KCET and at PBS through your suggestions and pressure for lower ongoing programming costs. At the very least determine what programs can be deleted from the schedule for lack of sufficient funding and interest from viewers. Thanks very much for your attention.

Sincerely,

John P. Franklin

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Tell viewers why you taking off Masterpiece theatre according to today LA Times WTF

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2010/09/dont-mess-with-a-masterpiece-.html

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Dear Al,

I'm going to be very direct with you regarding how my wife and I feel about how you fund raise. Breaking into programing for 15 to 20 minutes of BS and pleading for money is a major turnoff. We made a pledge never to send KCET/PBS money until you change how you fund raise. Ask for pledges before and/or after the program. Leave the program itself intact for us to enjoy and that would leave my wife and I much more incliined to part with our limited funds. Fund raise with some special features mixed in with the pledge requests. We believe there are a large number of other people who feel the same way as we do.

On a positive note we really enjoyed your broadcast of South Pacific and have a suggestion for you. Create a season of theater shows. This could be done in partnership with an established theater group so you can have a number of live shows with paying audiences which you then record and broadcast at the end of the run. This season can be intersperced with some concerts of singers/musicians and dance companies. This season of shows would give your viewers a series of shows they can plan for to see live and then the recorded version which would provide a different perspective. Such as close ups during the show, different viewing angles as well as, behind the scenes, how the actors prepare for their roles, etc. This would provide KCET with at a minimum of 12 once a month shows with repeated viewings (shows you could only see at KCET and the partner theater).
I would be happy to produce :)
Sincerely,
Movieman

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Thank you AL you just a viewer I just been on KTLA News home page thank you for screwing up KCET

http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-kcet-leaving-pbs,0,7277000.story

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I think it's time to find new leadership at KCET. Bringing quality programming like the PBS Newshour, Frontline, Ken Burns, Masterpiece Theater and other high end programming into the homes of Southern Californians is a sacred trust. So much content in television is mindless. PBS is the one source that raises the bar. And now you are severing your relationship with PBS so you can create local crap to pander to the masses? You have a sacred trust that was bestowed on you to maintain this relationship with PBS. How dare you make such a decision? You and the board should be the ones that are severed from KCET.

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Since the comment section of the "Frequently Asked Questions: KCET Going Independent" is not working, please answer the following:

How quickly can one withdraw support?