KCET, the independent public television station serving the Los Angeles area, and PBS SoCal announced an agreement Wednesday morning to merge the two entities.
It's a momentous shift for the public media landscape in L.A. and Orange counties. KCET decided to part ways from the PBS network back in 2010, due to financial concerns, and the Huntington Beach-based KOCE became the PBS flagship station for the region.
KCET Board of Directors Chairman Dick Cook will serve as Board Chair, and PBS SoCal President and CEO Andrew Russell will be President and CEO of the new group. It will be governed by a 32-person board of trustees composed of the 14 members from each of the boards of KCET parent company KCETLink and PBS SoCal, as well as four new board appointees.
Cook said over time the channels' schedules will evolve but all the shows viewers have come to expect from these stations will still be available. Viewers will still be able to tune in for both PBS programming and local favorites like Lost LA and SoCal Connect from KCET, he said.
[The merger is] giving us the flexibility of being able to put them on both stations. You're also going to see more things that we're going to be able to do, telling more stories that matter, not just in Southern California but this is going to become a huge production hub for the entire country in public media.
This merger is a chance for growth, not cutbacks Russell said. Now the two organizations combined will have about 130 employees but over time they hope to add jobs, he said.
There's not a lot of overlap in our operations. We [PBS SoCal] have built a lot in our early education and we've done a lot with community engagement. And KCET really built out local production and digital so those are strengths that we'll be mashing together and then building from there.
That combination of two local media organizations with complimentary strengths was what made KCET excited about the idea of the merger, Cook said.
PBS SoCal first reached out to KCET about possible partnerships, Russel said, and the merger came out of those earlier discussions. It's a chance for both organizations to better serve their viewers and create a new model for public media organizations across the country, he said.
This is a time of incredible media change. This is a time of great community need for media and together we're going to be much more effective at that, be able to grow and build a center of innovation for public media.
Officials say a new name for the organization will be announced with the closing of the deal, which is expected to be completed in the first half of this year.