Dial Magazine, public television's monthly national program guide, will cease publication after September's issue, officials at station WNET here said Tuesday.
The 7-year-old, advertiser-supported magazine, which currently has a circulation of 1.3 million, is owned and published by Public Broadcasting Communications, Inc., a New York-based consortium comprised of public-television stations in the 12 markets served by Dial, including KCET Channel 28 in Los Angeles.
"We mutually agreed that we could not afford the additional money required to meet the rising costs of publishing and distributing the magazine," said George L. Miles, executive vice president and chief operating officer of WNET.
KCET immediately said that it would publish a program guide of its own, as it used to do before Dial's creation.
"We will have something in our subscribers' hands in October," said Barbara Goen, director of public information. "They want one; research we've done bears this out unequivocally. And we feel it's important to keep communicating with them."
For the past two years, Dial has been distributed to contributors to the 12 PBS stations by East/West Network, an in-flight airline magazine company, at $3 per subscriber. East/West had asked that the price be raised to $4; the stations declined and the partnership is being dissolved, bringing an end to the long-troubled, often-controversial publishing venture.
"This is the best deal for the quality magazine they are producing, but we can't afford to take any more money away from our programming needs," Miles said.
Like KCET, WNET and most of the other stations that have relied on Dial to get listings and feature articles about the month's program schedule will now explore possibilities for strictly local guides, which still might be called Dial, he said.
What form the guide will take at KCET has not yet been decided, Goen said. Anticipating the possibility of Dial's demise, the Los Angeles station already had solicited proposals for a new publication from outside publishers, but they haven't been submitted for evaluation yet.
Goen said that the station is committed to spending no more on the local guide than it did on Dial--currently about $825,000 a year. Depending on what agreement can be struck with a publisher, she said, KCET is hopeful that it will be able to "maintain the same quality of information and sophistication and look that our subscribers have come to expect from us."
Dial was conceived at WNET in 1980 as a potential income-producing enterprise, but soon proved to be a financial burden that contributed to a financial crisis that nearly broke the station several years ago. Miles estimated that losses to the New York station from the venture totalled $6 million in the first two years of operation.
He said that there have been no losses since the East/West agreement, but he acknowledged that the company has not attracted sufficient advertising revenues to cover increasing production costs.
Since first being published, Dial has been a subject of controversy within public broadcasting. Some officials considered the venture too costly, some objected to its profit-making motives and others complained that the slick, glossy magazine was inconsistent with public television's image.
"I admire the effort, but frankly, from the perspective of national programming, the Dial, with it's long, inflexible (editorial) lead-time, is antithetical to the business of broadcasting," Suzanne Weil, PBS' senior vice president for programming, said by phone Tuesday from her office in Washington.