MARINA DEL REY, CALIF. — The flagship PBS station for Greater Los Angeles and Southern California since January 2011 is giving up its over-the-air broadcast station but won’t be pocketing the millions of dollars it is receiving from the just-completed FCC spectrum auction.
Instead, KOCE is investing its one-time revenue of $49 million in “expanding its mission across the region” as it enters into a channel-sharing agreement, assuring viewers that there will be no disruption in over-the-air broadcasts.
This erases worries that viewers across the Southland would be without PBS programming — a real concern that transpired in late 2010, when longtime PBS member KCET-26 in Los Angeles parted ways following a dispute over programming fees. This left KOCE, which had been the region’s secondary PBS station, as the top player in the nation’s No. 2 market.
“Our priority as the primary PBS station for Greater Los Angeles is to ensure we can deliver PBS programs to the 18 million people across the six counties in our region well into the future,” said Andrew Russell, President and CEO of PBS SoCal. “We retained the bandwidth necessary to accomplish that. The one-time auction revenues allow us to achieve another important objective: to invest in expanding our mission by providing more services to more people across the region.”
KOCE’s channel-sharing partner will be full-powered UHF KSCI-18, a multicultural station providing news, sports, dramas and entertainment in 14 languages.
PBS SoCal, the entity behind KOCE, retained most of the stations’ combined spectrum, ensuring sufficient bandwidth to serve the Southern California region.
With its millions from the spectrum auction, “strategic investments in content production and broadband services that reach more audiences via mobile and web” will be made. PBS SoCal will also restructure its debt and create an investment fund that generates annual revenues.
“PBS SoCal remains deeply committed to serving Southern California and advancing the PBS mission,” Russell continued. “While these one-time auction revenues will help us expand our mission, we are grateful for the individuals, foundations and corporations whose collective ongoing support comprises more than 80 percent of our annual budget. Your support continues to be essential – particularly as our important federal funding is under threat – to ensuring the news, public affairs, arts and science programs that are critical for an educated and informed citizenry.”
The President’s budget proposes the elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting, which amounts to $1.35 per citizen per year.
“There is no viable replacement for federal funding of public broadcasting,” Russell said. “The one-time funds from the spectrum auction will not come close to closing the large fiscal gap that would be left by the loss of annual federal support. Federal funding is vital seed funding that helps stations raise the local support that represents more than half of our annual budgets.”