After serving as PBS’ flagship West Coast station for the past 4 decades, KCET is set to become the largest independent public TV station after failing to reach a new affiliate agreement with PBS, in which the Los Angeles-based station had been seeking fee reduction and greater programming flexibility.  KCET will continue to carry the full PBS line-up through December 31, 2010, switching to independent status on Jan. 1, 2011. Here is the statement by  Al Jerome, KCET President and CEO:

“After four decades as the west coast flagship PBS station, this is not a decision we made lightly.  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.

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.   We will continue to offer the KCET audience programming from leading national and international sources.  Some of these series are currently on our air.

Our plan is to become the media partner for the many diverse, creative voices in our community with stories to tell, art to exhibit, music or dance to perform and news to report.  We will partner with other public service organizations so that our viewers can learn about the good work being done, but not often reported in the commercial media. We will use our broadcast spectrum and broadband capabilities to expand public service at a time in our history when people of all ages want to actively
participate in the recovery and growth of our region.

KCET claims that its PBS dues were increased by 40% because of its successful fundraising effort on behalf of A Place of Our Own/Los Niños en Su Casa and that the dues were then frozen at the highest rate in the station’s history just as the economy tumbled, leading to decreases in contributions from viewers, corporate underwriting, and foundation grants.  KCET also notes that it is in the only market with four overlapping stations, which is why the station had been pursuing a consortium with the other stations in the Southern California region. KCET will remain a non-profit, viewer-supported public media organization, operating under a non-commercial, educational television broadcast license awarded to Community Television of Southern California as an independent public television station.