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Los Angeles, California
United States
Branding KCET
Slogan Inspiring a better state
Channels Digital: 28 (UHF)
Virtual: 28 (PSIP)
  • 28.1: KCET-HD
  • 28.2: KCETLink
  • 28.3: V-Me
  • 28.4: NHK World
Translators (see article)
Affiliations Noncommercial educational Independent
Owner KCETLink Media Group
First air date September 28, 1964 (1964-09-28)
Call letters' meaning Community Educational Television
Cultural and Educational Television
Sister station(s) Link TV
Former channel number(s) Analog:
28 (UHF, 1964–2009)
59 (UHF, 2000–2009)
Former affiliations
Transmitter power 155 kW
Height 926 metres (3,038 feet)
Facility ID 13058
Transmitter coordinates
Licensing authority Federal Communications Commission
Public license information: Profile
Website .org.kcetwww

KCET, channel 28, is a non-commercial educational, independent television station located in Los Angeles, California, USA. The station's studios are located in Burbank, California, and its transmitter is located atop Mount Wilson. It is part of the KCETLink Media Group.

KCET was a charter member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) at its inception in 1970. The station was Southern California's flagship PBS member station until December 31, 2010, when it ended its partnership with PBS after 40 years to become the nation's largest independent public television station. KCET's management cited unresolvable financial and programming disputes among its major reasons for leaving PBS.[1]

For much of its time on air, KCET had broadcast from its studios in Hollywood until moving to new offices in Burbank's media district in 2012. The move has left CW affiliate KTLA (channel 5) as the last remaining radio or TV broadcaster in that neighborhood as stations have moved on to other cities and neighborhoods in the region.

In October 2012, KCET announced that it was merging with non-commercial satellite network Link TV to form a new nonprofit entity, to be called "KCETLink" with its national headquarters based in KCET's Burbank facilities. the merger is intended to also broadcast a local affiliate feed of LinkTV on one of KCET's subchannels.[2]


  • Background 1
  • History 2
    • Independent public station 2.1
  • Programming 3
    • Digital television 3.1
    • Digital channels 3.2
  • Criticism 4
  • Ventures and partnerships prior to going independent 5
  • Rebroadcasters 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


KCET was actually the second attempt at an educational station in the Los Angeles area: KTHE, operated by the University of Southern California, had previously broadcast on channel 28, beginning on September 22, 1953.[3] It was the second educational television station in the United States, signing on six months and four days after KUHT in Houston, but it went dark after nine months due to its primary benefactor, the Hancock Foundation, determining that the station was too much of a financial drain on its resources.


KCET, licensed to the non-profit group Community Television of Southern California (CTSC), first signed on the air on September 28, 1964 as an affiliate of National Educational Television (NET).[4] Part of the station's initial funding came from four of Los Angeles's commercial stations–KNXT (channel 2; now KCBS-TV),[5] KNBC (channel 4),[6] KTTV (channel 11)[7] and KCOP (channel 13)[8]–along with grants from the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.[9] KCET initially broadcast in black and white from Monday through Friday.[10] James Loper, a co-founder of CTSC, served as the station's director of education from 1964 to 1966 and then vice president and general manager from 1966 to 1971.[11] Loper then served as president of KCET from 1971 to 1983.[11][12]

Prior to applying for and receiving a construction permit to build channel 28, CTSC attempted to acquire one of Los Angeles's seven existing VHF commercial stations. In 1968, Community Television of Southern California emerged as a potential buyer of KTLA's license from then-owner Gene Autry,[13] but could not raise the cash needed to make a serious offer.[14] If CTSC succeeded in moving KCET to channel 5, the move would have mirrored a similar occurrence seven years earlier in the New York City area, where local broadcasters assisted a non-profit group in purchasing commercial independent VHF station WNTA-TV and converting it into non-commercial, educational WNDT (it is now WNET).

In 1970, KCET became a charter member of PBS. For most of the next 40 years, it was the second most-watched PBS station in the country.

KCET's long time studios in Los Angeles.

Previously, KCET was headquartered in a historic area of Hollywood, used as a film and television studio from 1912 to 1970. KCET purchased the former Monogram Pictures property in 1971, assisted financially in part by both the Ford Foundation and the Michael Connell Foundation. The newest building was named the Weingart Educational Telecommunications Center and housed KCET's master control, digital control rooms, ingest, and editing stations on the first floor and engineering, new media operations, and news and public affairs on the second floor.

In 2004, as part of its image-reclaiming public relations after the Gulf oil spill, BP started granting KCET half the funding for preschool shows including "A Place of Our Own" and "Los Ninos en Su Casa", a Spanish language version. The other half of the $50 million grants for the show and supporting outreach programs came from First 5 California plus additional funding from a secret donor. The show would win Peabody and local Emmy awards and be shown national over PBS. KCET renamed its production studio to BP Studios in thanks.[15]

In 2006, KCET launched a digital channel, KCET Desert Cities, for digital television and cable for the Coachella Valley. In September, KCET announced a similar channel for Orange County in partnership with California State University, Fullerton. The channels would be funded by area-specific pledge drives and area foundations and corporations partnerships.[16]

PBS included BP's and other grants for the two pre-school shows in its complex progressive dues structures, even though the grants came with the stipulation that they could not be used for administrative costs. The PBS dues for KCET had previously been $4.9 million but with the grants included the dues increased by 40% to close to $7 million. Other large funding sources that had previously been counted on were shrinking and thus could not be tapped to pay the dues. KCET's request that these specific grants which were restricted to show production only not be counted towards the dues owed was denied; PBS executives indicated that PBS stations were expected to anticipate their dues and increase their reserves to pay them and therefore would not grant special treatment for KCET. With the January 2010 1/2 year payment coming up, KCET offered to reduce their status to a secondary affiliation, reducing the dues owed to a total of $1.3 million; due with CPB paying $750,000 and a special campaign to raise the rest. PBS rejected the offer, insisting the station to remain as the primary affiliate.[15]

Independent public station

On October 8, 2010, KCET announced that it could not reach an agreement to remain with PBS and would become an independent public television station on January 1, 2011. After channel 28 left PBS, KOCE-TV (channel 50), licensed to Huntington Beach in Orange County, replaced KCET as the area's primary PBS station.[17] KCET originally planned to purchase KOCE-TV from its licensee, the Coast Community College District but dropped out prior to making a formal bid.[16] Also prior to defection, an offer of KCET joining a four-station consortium with KOCE, secondary Los Angeles affiliate KLCS (channel 58) and San Bernardino-licensed KVCR (channel 24) was proposed with the idea of the stations uniting to share various functions, certain programming, fundraising and marketing, to save money.;[18] however, KCET passed on the offer. KLCS, owned by the Los Angeles Unified School District, is now the only PBS station with administrative and studio facilities in Los Angeles.

With the ending of PBS affiliation on January 1, 2011, KCET also changed its subchannels: KCET Kids & Family which removed all PBS content from the lineup, V-me continued as an affiliate of the Latino/Hispanic network, and PBS World was replaced with MHz Worldview. Former stations KCET Orange & KCET Desert Cities were shut down and replaced. KCET Desert Cities shows were moved to KCET’s daytime lifestyle block.[19] KCET primary subchannel offered themed nights during the first year of operation.[20]

On February 4, 2011, the [21]

On March 30, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that KCET was in negotiations to sell the Hollywood studio to the Church of Scientology, with KCET relocating to a smaller location following the sale, in light of KCET's sharp decreases in ratings and pledges following disaffiliation from PBS.[22] The sale of the property, which was sold for $45 million,[23] closed on April 25, 2011, with part of the proceeds going towards KCET's leasing of the studios[23] until new facilities were found.[24][25] KCET relocated to a new complex in a high-rise state-of-the art building, The Pointe, in April 2012, located in Burbank.[23] At the end of the 2011 Fiscal Year, contributions and grants to KCET decreased even further, down 41% from the previous year to $22.3 million.[23]

In October 2012, KCET announced it was merging with San Francisco-based Link Media to form KCETLink, a single 501(c)(3) multimedia organization, based in Burbank. KCETLink reaches a much wider broadcast audience that includes Link Media's 33 million subscribers on DirecTV and Dish Network, and KCET’s 5.6 million households in Southern and Central California.[26] Link's feed on Cable/Satellite was renamed KCETLINK and replaced KCET Kids & Family on subchannel 28.2.

On July 9, 2013, NHK World was selected as the replacement for MHz Worldview on subchannel 28.4. (MHz Worldview moved to a subchannel of KLCS-DT.)[27]

On September 10, 2014, it was announced that after negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District, owners of PBS member station KLCS, KCET and KLCS will consolidate their broadcast signals onto one over-the-air channel band, so the remaining wireless spectrum can be divested during the FCC's 2016 spectrum incentive auction. Both stations will retain separate licenses.[28][29] Earlier in the year, KLCS had participated in a trial of channel sharing with KJLA.[30][31][32][33]

On January 5, 2015, former ABC Family boss Michael Riley is announced as the new CEO of KCETLINK, replacing Al Jerome who exited in March 2014.[34]


While it acted as the flagship PBS station for the Pacific Time Zone, for the most part, KCET mainly acted as a distributor of Los Angeles-based productions for other independent producers, rather than producing much programming in its own right for the national PBS system.[35] It produced the acclaimed Carl Sagan series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage from 1978 to 1979. KCET produced or presented Hollywood Television Theater, Trying Times, and the Hispanic family drama American Family for PBS, and was one of the consortium of stations that produced American Playhouse.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, KCET produced a six-part miniseries in conjunction with the BBC called Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State.

As of 2007, productions include its award-winning and signature news and public affairs program Life & Times hosted by Val Zavala (underwritten by The Whittier Foundation, Jim & Anne Rothenberg, QueensCare, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Boeing, and the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department). Huell Howser's California's Gold was produced at the KCET lot, until its effective cancellation in 2013 following the death of Howser.

KCET also produced the weeknight talk show Tavis Smiley and a PBS science show, WIRED Science. A television program designed for care-givers, A Place of Our Own and its Spanish language equivalent, Los Niños en Su Casa are taped at the KCET studios, produced with a grant from BP.

A few children's programs have also come from KCET – Storytime, The Puzzle Place, Adventures from the Book of Virtues, The Charlie Horse Music Pizza, and Sid the Science Kid (the latter now airing on KOCE).

KCET also produced California Connected, a television newsmagazine about various people, places and events throughout California, co-produced with KQED in San Francisco, KVIE in Sacramento, and KPBS in San Diego. This series ended its run in 2007 after five seasons.

On December 9, 2010, KCET announced its new program schedule after its disaffiliation from PBS in 2011. Programming included movies; travel, science, and drama programs, Britcoms and news programs, as the station maintains their relationship with program syndicators American Public Television and NETA, among others, which allow non-PBS stations to air their programming. Some of the programs that were announced and/or continued on the new lineup include Globe Trekker, Rick Steves' Europe, Burt Wolf: Travels and Traditions, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, The McLaughlin Group, Inside Washington, BBC World News, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Visiting With Huell Howser,[36] and KCET's newsmagazine, SoCal Connected.[37]

KCET's 2012 schedule included Open Call a weekly series showcasing arts and culture in Southern California hosted by opera singer ITV dramedy, Doc Martin; and Classic Cool Theater, a showcase of classic films, cartoons and newsreels.[23]

Programming additions in 2015 include Borgen are also part of the ongoing schedule.

Digital television

Digital channels

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[38]
28.1 720p 16:9 KCET-HD Main KCET programming
28.2 480i KCETLnk KCET Link
28.3 4:3 KCET-Vm V-me
28.4 16:9 N H K NHK World

In 2000, KCET signed on a digital signal on UHF channel 59. For its first seven years operating a digital signal from 2000 to 2007, the majority of the programming on KCET's high definition subchannel 28.1 (outside of most primetime shows) was different from the main signal on analog channel 28 (which was initially operated on digital subchannel 28.2 and was later replaced with "KCET Orange"), as was with most other PBS stations with HDTV capabilities. With the arrival of new programming services from PBS and V-me (which airs on digital subchannel 28.3) in mid-2007, programming from the main signal was integrated into the HD subchannel to accommodate for space, while at the same time preserving the integrity and demand for quality HD programming. In August 2007, KCET began broadcasting PBS World under digital subchannel 28.4. World's lineup includes programming related to world culture, news and history.

On June 12, 2009, KCET shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 28, as part of the digital transition in the United States. It had been broadcasting its pre-transition digital signal over UHF channel 59, from which it relocated to its former analog UHF channel 28, due to UHF channels 52-69 being removed from broadcasting use as part of the transition to digital television.

On January 1, 2011, with the suspension of its active membership in PBS, 28.2 became "KCET Kids and Family" airing mostly children's programs, 28.3 remained V-me (which operates independently of PBS), and 28.4 began airing MHz Worldview. The former had 28.2 as KCET Orange and 28.4 as PBS World. In March 2013, KCET Kids and Family was replaced with KCETLink, simulcasting LinkTV-licensed content.

On August 5, 2013, KCET dropped [6] MHz Worldview;[39] it was replaced by NHK World.


Before exiting PBS, KCET found difficulty gaining a foothold in syndication. PBS and CPB have a stronger relationship with East Coast stations that not only generate higher revenue, but also have higher network interest, with New York, Washington, D.C. and Boston PBS affiliated stations providing the majority of political and entertainment programming aired as prime-time shows.[40] (The only KCET show in national syndication at the time, Tavis Smiley, moved to WNET New York after KCET left the network.) "In California, San Francisco's KQED and even San Diego's KPBS have been far more contributing players to the national profile of public television. Add in that the Washington-New York-Boston axis of these stations has made them more politically engaged, culturally relevant and educationally centered, this has put KCET as an unanchored and notably unimaginative cultural player in 'la-la' land." remarked Lawrence Wenner of Loyola Marymount University.[40]

Gordon Bava (on the KCET Board of Directors at the time of the transition) cited that the big three stations (WNET, WGBH, and WETA) all use their nationally syndicated shows (most of which have legacies of 30+ years and show little change or risk of cancellation) as an offset to their yearly dues payments, making it difficult for any other PBS Affiliate to compete with them for prime-time airings.[40] Part of KCET's difficulties in paying dues mounted before the recession when in 2007 KCET received sponsorship from BP for children's programming (mentioned above in History). The dues increase of 30% during the recession cut into their capital expenditures.[41] Absent of all of that, Howard Rosenberg of USC commented that "...the great irony is, you have this great creative community in Los Angeles, and KCET did very little to capitalize on the local entertainment industry."[40]

Changing to an independent television station has also brought considerable difficulty to KCET, with loss in revenues, sponsors, and viewership. In 2012, KCET's funding plunged 41% to $22.3 million.[42] In the first month of viewership, KCET lost 38% of viewers to PBS after going independent which was a factor in the loss of funding.[43] Sponsorship is also further complicated as the viewer pledge drives to support Public Television stations causes rating gains on the opposite network (PBS vs. KCETLINK, or vice versa) when they don't air pledge drives.[44] Al Jerome, the CEO who oversaw the exit from PBS and the merger with the LinkTV network, resigned in March 2014. Both PBS and KCET state uniformly that a return of KCET to PBS Affiliation is currently off of the table: KCET's merger with LinkTV, as well as KOCE's newfound flagship status being two major complications against the move.[45]

Ventures and partnerships prior to going independent

One of KCET's multicast channels was digital subchannel network KCET Orange, which aired on subchannel 28.2 until the January 2011 PBS exit along with its removal from the majority of Southern California digital cable systems. The network aired programs like Life and Times, plus additional arts and cultural programming tailored to Orange County.

Another KCET digital cable channel was KCET Desert Cities, which was available to Time Warner Cable subscribers in the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area until the January 2011 PBS exit. It was carried on TWC channel 218, and its programming schedule differed from the main Los Angeles signal.

In 2006, KCET established a partnership with California State University, Fullerton. The signature program offering resulting from the partnership was the public-affairs show "OC Insight", which aired through 2011 when the partnership ended. Students and faculty from the university's College of Communications were integral to the show's production. Jeffrey D. Cook, the university's chief communications officer, served as executive producer of OC Insight during the show's final two years.

KCET offered their studio facilities to commercial productions to provide themselves an additional stream of revenue. The former Hollywood facility has been used mainly for the productions of the Game Show Network, including 2007's Camouflage and the 2010 revival of The Newlywed Game. KCET's studios also hosted the MTV game show webRIOT and the California Lottery's Saturday evening programs, The Big Spin and Make Me a Millionaire. KCET sold the studio facilities in 2012 to aid with their financial restructuring.


KCET utilizes several repeaters to extend its coverage:

Call sign Analog channel Digital channel City of License Ownership Notes
K16FC-D no 16 San Luis Obispo KCET originally on channel 15 as K15BD, displaced for KSBY-DT
K26FT-D no 26 Santa Barbara KCET
K28GY-D no 28 Santa Barbara, etc. KCET
K46II-D no 46 Bakersfield KCET
K47CC-D 47 47.1 Victorville KCET
K41CB-D no 41.4 Lucerne Valley KCET Standard Def. (No Microwave Reception, uses DSS as a source)
K14AT-D 14 no China Lake, etc. Indian Wells Valley TV Booster
K31JM-D no 31 (soon) China Lake, etc. Indian Wells Valley TV Booster currently holds a construction permit
K51DD-D no 51 Ridgecrest Indian Wells Valley TV Booster


  1. ^ Collins, Scott (October 8, 2010). "Los Angeles PBS affiliate KCET exits network fold to go independent".  
  2. ^ Collins, Scott (October 17, 2012). "KCET announces merger with satellite network Link TV".  
  3. ^ "Telecasting Yearbook 1954-55" (PDF). Broadcasting Telecasting: 64. 1954. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ "KCET(TV) begins ETV in Los Angeles." Broadcasting, September 28, 1964, pg. 100.
  5. ^ "CBS gives $250,000 to California ETV." Broadcasting, August 26, 1963, pg. 38.
  6. ^ "New NBC grant to ETV." Broadcasting, November 11, 1963, pg. 66.
  7. ^ "Metromedia gives $250,000 to L.A. ETV." Broadcasting, July 15, 1963, pp. 45-46. [7][8]
  8. ^ "More money for L.A. ETV." Broadcasting, February 10, 1964, pg. 86.
  9. ^ "KCET(TV) gets grant." Broadcasting, October 5, 1964, pg. 58.
  10. ^ Stein, Jeannine (June 16, 1989). "R.S.V.P. : Black-Tie Gala Helps KCET Celebrate 25 Years on the Air". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "R.I.P. James Loper".  
  12. ^ Nelson, Valerie J. (2013-07-10). "James L. Loper dies at 81; helped make KCET a public broadcasting power".  
  13. ^ "Bids are made for Golden West." Broadcasting, March 11, 1968, pp. 36, 38. [9][10]
  14. ^ "'NSF' puts educators out of KTLA purchase." Broadcasting, March 25, 1968, pg. 9.
  15. ^ a b Collins, Scott (October 22, 2010). "How $50 million in donations led KCET to split from PBS". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Berthelsen, Christian (September 21, 2006). "KCET Plans Channel With O.C. Content". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  17. ^ Larsen, Peter (October 8, 2010). "KOCE takes over as top PBS station after KCET cuts ties with network".  
  18. ^ Collins, Scott (October 8, 2010). "Los Angeles affiliate KCET is leaving the PBS network". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  19. ^ Villarreal, Yvonne (December 28, 2010). "KCET announces digital channel lineup". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  20. ^ Collins, Scott (December 28, 2010). "KCET divides new programming lineup into themed blocks". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 20, 2014. 
  21. ^ "NOTICE OF APPARENT LIABILITY FOR FORFEITURE: In the Matter of Community Television of Southern California, Licensee of Noncommercial Educational TV Station KCET, Los Angeles, California, Facility ID. No. 13058".  
  22. ^ Vincent, Roger; Collins, Scott (March 30, 2011). "KCET-TV said to be in talks to sell landmark studio to Church of Scientology".  
  23. ^ a b c d e Collins, Scott (February 9, 2012). "Funding down 41% at KCET". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Church of Scientology Acquires Hollywood Studio Facility" (Press release). PRWeb. April 25, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  25. ^ "KCET Sells Production Studios To Church Of Scientology". CBS Los Angeles. April 25, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  26. ^ Collins, Scott (October 17, 2012). "KCET announces merger with satellite network Link TV".  
  27. ^ Alumia, Angelica. "KCETLink Partners with NHK WORLD TV to Launch 24-Hour Channel in Southern California". KCET. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  28. ^ "KCET, KLCS In Channel-Sharing Partnership". TVNewsCheck. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  29. ^ "KCET, KLCS to Share Channel and Give Up Spectrum for Auction". Variety. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  30. ^ "FCC Grants STA for L.A. Spectrum Sharing". TV Technology. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  31. ^ "TV Stations in Los Angeles to Share a Channel to Free Up Spectrum". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  32. ^ "LA trial finds that broadcasters can share their TV channels". Gigaom. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  33. ^ "Overview of the KLCS/KJLA Channel Sharing Pilot — A Technical Report" (PDF). Alan Popkin, Director of Television Engineering & Technical Operations, KLCS-TV, Los Angeles
    Roger Knipp, Broadcast Engineer, KLCS-TV, Los Angeles
    Eddie Hernandez, Director of Operations & Engineering,  
  34. ^ Collins, Scott. "KCET taps former ABC Family boss Michael Riley as new CEO". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  35. ^ Maerz, Melissa; Collins, Scott (December 26, 2010). "Why KCET never became a major player in the PBS network". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  36. ^ Williams, Cathy (December 9, 2010). "KCET Announces New Program Schedule" (Press release). KCET. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  37. ^ "SoCal Connected". KCET. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  38. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for KCET
  39. ^ MHz Networks Blog, retrieved August 7, 2013 
  40. ^ a b c d Maerz, Melissa; Collins, Scott. "Why KCET never became a major player in the PBS network". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  41. ^ Hayden, Tyler. "The Truth Behind the PBS/KCET Split". The Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  42. ^ Collins, Scott. "Funding down 41% at KCET". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  43. ^ Collins, Scott. "KCET's prime-time ratings slip 38% in first three weeks without PBS". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  44. ^ Jensen, Elizabeth. "PubTV in L.A. not yet a case of win-win-win-win". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  45. ^ Collins, Scott. "KCET's Al Jerome retiring as CEO of embattled public TV station". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for KCET
  • BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on KCET-TV
  • Program Information for KCET at
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