Mel Rogers to step down as PBS SoCal chief; Andrew Russell to step up

PBS SoCal chief Mel Rogers to retire, be replaced by Andrew Russell

After 18 years at the helm of PBS SoCal/KOCE-TV, Mel Rogers is stepping down.

The station announced Thursday morning that Rogers will retire effective April 30 and be replaced by Andrew Russell, a veteran PBS executive who arrived at the Costa Mesa station two years ago.

Rogers was thrust into the spotlight in 2011, when PBS faced a crisis in the Los Angeles area.

KCET-TV, the preeminent PBS station in the region, abruptly announced it was leaving the network after years of disputes over dues and other issues. The station, then based in Silver Lake (it has since moved to Burbank), reinvented itself as an independent public broadcaster.

KOCE then became the dominant local provider of PBS programming, including the hit drama "Downton Abbey," and rebranded itself as PBS SoCal.

In a brief interview, Rogers said he had been toying with retiring to pursue other interests when the KCET switch persuaded him to put those plans on hold. Since then, he has been widely credited for providing stability and focus during a challenging transition. The station has stepped up fund-raising efforts and opened offices in downtown Los Angeles and Century City as part of its efforts to strengthen community ties in the area. 

"Mel has done an absolutely amazing job in leading the station through some very unique and challenging times," Jim McCluney, PBS SoCal's board chairman, wrote in a statement.

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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