Monday, January 10, 2011

PBS SoCal Ponders Los Angeles Office; Looks To Hire More Staffers

KOCE-TV prexy/CEO Mel Rogers said his station -- which became L.A.'s primary PBS affiliate -- on Jan. 1.continues to plot out how it will now serve the larger region.

KOCE, now rebranded "PBS SoCal," just moved into larger Costa Mesa facilities, but is also looking at ways to create a physical presence in Los Angeles.

"We do need boots on the ground," he said.

KOCE is also looking to expand its staff, which currently numbers only around 40.

"We're never going to be as large (as KCET is), but we’re going to have to be at least 70 to 80 people," he said.

Rogers said the new consortium is still figuring out its program sharing. KVCR, for example, is now airing "Charlie Rose" at 11 p.m. But because KVCR isn't as widely available throughout Southern California, KOCE will repeat the show at midnight.

Also, KOCE has moved PBS' signature "Independent Lens" to KLCS in order to create a night of independent documentary programming.

Rogers said he still marvels at the reversal of fortune for KOCE, which nearly went off the air all together just a few years ago.

When the Coast Community College District Board of Trustees sold the station to the KOCE Foundation in 2004, religious broadcaster Daystar (which had made a major play for the license) sued – which dried up funding, Rogers said, as it looked like KOCE might not survive.

Then, when KOCE and Daystar settled their legal battle, the recession came soon after.

"Our obituary has been written many times," Rogers said.

PBS president Paula Kerger opened the public broadcaster’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour on Saturday with Rogers.

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

Kerger said PBS has worked closely with KOCE in the transition, as well as San Bernardino’s KVCR and the L.A. Unified School District's KLCS. Together, the three stations have created a new local PBS consortium to coordinate scheduling and share resources. (KCET, which had initially created the idea, is not a part of that new group.)

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