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Irony: How $50 Million In Donations to KCET Set Off Problems With PBS

Oct 22, 2010  •  Post A Comment

KCET-TV’s departure from PBS can be linked to generous grants the station started receiving in 2004, when the once-struggling public-television station received gifts that ballooned to $50 million, including one gift of $25 million from BP, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Scott Collins.

The gifts, the largest in the history of the station, were given for preschool programming and helped to create "A Place of Our Own" and its Spanish-language version "Los Ninos en Su Casa," which earned the Peabody and local Emmy awards, the story says.

But the gifts led to a dilemma for KCET, since the nation’s public-television system works under a complicated system similar to a progressive tax. Thus the donations caused the station’s PBS dues to spike more than 40%, the story says.

That became a big problem for this reason, the article says: While KCET had more money from the grants, the gifts stipulated that they couldn’t be used for administrative costs such as PBS dues.

At the same time KCET’s funding streams began to feel the impact of the slowing U.S. economy, the article notes. "When our dues were at the highest, our revenue sources–whether they were from major giving or foundations or corporate underwriters–were decreasing," KCET President Al Jerome says. "So we became increasingly less able to pay" the dues.

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