It’s official: PBS lineup moves to KOCE-TV starting Jan. 1


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Los Angeles fans of PBS will soon have to get “Sesame Street,” “Nova” and other iconic shows from a station in Orange County.

Starting Jan. 1, KOCE-TV Channel 48, the Huntington Beach outlet that currently airs only one-quarter of the PBS lineup, will begin beaming the full network schedule to a huge swath of Southern California that will encompass Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernadino and Ventura counties as well as Santa Barbara.


“We’re very excited that KOCE will be the full-service PBS station in the market, taking the wonderful opportunity of providing all the great core PBS content throughout Southern California,” Mel Rogers, the station’s president, said in an interview Tuesday.

KOCE’s broadcast signal already reaches most of that area, Rogers said. The station is also negotiating with cable operators in the few communities in the region that do not currently carry it. That includes cable systems serving about 200,000 Time Warner customers in the Inland Empire, Rogers said. The station is pushing for coverage in the Palm Springs and Victorville areas and has a pending deal with Cox Cable that would cover Santa Barbara, Rogers said.

The move had been expected since KCET-TV Channel 28 announced in October that it would exit PBS following a months-long dispute over dues and other issues. KCET will become an independent public broadcaster and is pursuing a schedule based on local programs, BBC repeats and news and documentary shows produced in Canada, Japan and elsewhere. A KCET spokeswoman said the station did not yet have precise scheduling information.

Meanwhile, the impact on KOCE’s schedule will be dramatic. Though the station already carries iconic programs such as “Antiques Roadshow,” it will gain some daily shows with devoted fan bases, such as “NewsHour” and “Charlie Rose.” The station will also carry seven hours of PBS Kids programming each day –- some of which it already airs -- including “Sesame Street,” “Curious George” and “Arthur.” PBS viewers should notice little difference between what KCET broadcasted and the new KOCE lineup. “There might be one or two little exceptions,” Rogers said. “But it’s certainly 99%, largely everything that KCET took before … It will look a lot like the PBS schedule that was on KCET.”

However, some legacies of the old KOCE will remain. The station will continue airing “Real Orange” and “Inside OC,” news and public affairs shows devoted to Orange County, although they will not be repeated as often. And the station will still carry Lawrence Welk reruns on Saturday nights.

“I don’t think viewers are going to notice much loss,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he was confident that KOCE was financially prepared to move up to full-service PBS status.

“We are operating with pretty low overhead here,” he said. “We’re not spending money that we don’t have.”

The new arrangement means a hefty dues increase for KOCE, since primary PBS stations pay much more to the national organization than secondary stations do. But Rogers said: “We know the PBS dues will increase for us. But it doesn’t appear that’s going to be problematic at all in light of the revenue that we anticipate from this full-service circumstance.” He added that the network’s new schedule should lure increased support from corporations and individual donors.

Still unclear is what role will be played by the two other PBS stations in the area, KLCS-TV, which is licensed to the Los Angeles Unified School District, and KVCR-TV based in San Bernadino. PBS is likely to use the stations increasingly to help promote the main lineup on KOCE, but the precise details still aren’t worked out.

“We are talking to all three stations about how to expand services in Los Angeles over the next month,” PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger said in an interview.

“Our primary goal has been to make sure that we got the core content up as of Jan. 1.”

-- Scott Collins