Big changes ahead for KCET-TV's newsmagazine 'SoCal Connected'

An overhauled 'SoCal Connected' will move "'uot of the studio and into the community' on KCET

"SoCal Connected" is coming back -- and it's going to look a little different.

KCET-TV announced Wednesday that it's bringing back its Los Angeles-focused newsmagazine for a sixth season starting May 14, with Val Zavala serving as anchor and executive producer, along with "a new look, format and group of reporters." One prime goal of the reconstituted show is a more thorough integration with KCET's digital offerings.

The overhauled "SoCal Connected" will move "out of the studio and into the community," according to a news release, with stories focused on the environment, health, government and local arts. Among the stories will be a look at problems caused by construction on the 710 freeway and the ongoing California drought.

The return of "SoCal Connected" counts as a victory for the Burbank-based public broadcaster, which now operates as KCETLink. The program's funding has long been dicey, but funding from Chapman University, along with gifts from the Ahmanson Foundation and MaddocksBrown Foundation, enabled the show to continue with another season.

However, KCET has had to peel back some onetime ambitions for the program. In 2012, the station promoted the show to a nightly offering on the schedule. But the new version will air weekly. Moreover, "SoCal Connected's" future remains uncertain amid the overall funding problems for KCET, which has struggled financially since leaving PBS a few years ago.

"I am looking forward to offering our viewers a wider fare that includes not just in-depth hard news stories, but also features on innovative problem-solvers, artists, interesting places, music and food culture," Zavala said in a statement.

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