New Year Changes at KCET to Enhance Local Programming


By Frank Barron

Val Zavala.

Our local KCET channel, which has been a PBS station for about 40 years, will become an independent outlet as of January 1. That will make it the largest independent public television station in the U.S., but it will remain a non-profit, viewer-supported public media organization. The Ahmanson Foundation showed its support of the conversion with a $1 million grant. That’s a great start for a New Year at KCET.

The change was not a decision made lightly, reports Al Jerome, KCET president and CEO. But he feels it will help the station address the challenges that are unique to this market.

“We will be committed to investing in Southern California by developing, acquiring, producing, and distributing content across all media platform,” Jerome said. “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.”

As an independent, KCET will continue to present the finest programs from PBS, and now it will add some interesting new shows that have a local vibe. KCET has always played a vital role in the cultural and educational enrichment of Southern and Central California.

A crown jewel in their lineup of great local programming has been KCET’s hard-hitting weekly news show SoCal Connected. And, of course, it will continue to be part of the schedule, especially since the show just won the prestigious Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Award for 2011. The award honors excellence in broadcast journalism and is considered equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a real feather in the cap of the multiple Emmy-winning series, which also won the 2010 Peabody Award.

Featuring extensive coverage of important issues, SoCal Connected has a great newswoman as its anchor, Val Zavala. I caught up with her at a recent KCET special event at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. It was a reception for the great National Geographic special The President’s Photographer, which aired last month on PBS.

Zavala gives credit to SoCal Connected’s award-winning investigative team comprised of reporters, editors and producers. The show has been generously praised for their reporting teams, who showcase television at its best. The awards committee singled out their great stories that included in-depth investigations that exposed wrong-doing by elected representatives. Also, there were stories about loopholes for medical pot clinics, fraud at Cal/OSHA, and “Hung Out to Dry” was a report on inaccuracy in designating FEMA flood zones that produced a needless burden on homeowners. KCET helped make a difference in their lives.

With a 46-year history of serving Southern and Central California, KCET’s new schedule will reflect its long-standing commitment to our local scene.

“Since we are part of the community, we know the issues facing our region, and we will help inform and motivate our viewers to cope with those challenges with the information they need through hard-hitting reporting,” explains Mary Mazur, KCET executive vice president and chief content officer.

Mazur also reassured that they will provide a mix of programming designed to enlighten and entertain.

A new on-air look will premiere January 1, along with a schedule that has been organized into themed viewing blocks to make it easier for the audience to find their favorite genres and shows. Sunday is “Hollywood Movie Night.” Monday is all about action and travel adventures. Tuesday is science and innovation night. Wednesday is drama night. Thursday is an eclectic night featuring the weekly premiere of SoCal Connected. Friday is still the night for all the news you need. And Saturday is British night, with popular Brit-coms and English dramas. Daytime will continue to feature children’s programming, to nurture a new generation of viewers.

Happy New Year to KCET.

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