PBS stations in California, Florida may be acquired by national, church groups

LOS ANGELES – Valentine’s Day has been set as the date for the sale of KCSM-TV, the PBS station serving San Mateo and the counties south of San Francisco. The station is owned by the local community college and said it could no longer afford to operate the station because it is short of funds.

Potential buyers expressing interest include two Colorado organizations, the Public Media Company, based in Boulder, and Independent Public Media, based in Denver. (You can see our earlier report on Independent Public Media here.)

Daystar, a Texas-based religious broadcaster, is also interested in bidding on the station, according to Current magazine.

Daystar already has a deal to buy the PBS station in Orlando, Florida, and covert it to religious programming. Anticipating the sale, the Orlando station ended PBS programming last year, and its offices and studios are now empty. However, the FCC has yet to approve the transaction and has asked for additional comments, according to Current.

Last year the other public TV station south of San Francisco, KTEH-TV in San Jose, was absorbed fully into San Francisco’s KQED-TV and renamed KQED+.

“Changing the name benefits the community by building equity in a single well-known, highly-respected brand,” explained KQED’s announcement.

The merger leaves KCSM as the remaining independent public television station serving San Mateo and San Jose, the state’s third largest city with a larger population than San Francisco. In its announcement, KQED promised not to forget those communities: “KQED’s hope is to have more coverage of the region than ever before.”

Around the country, other PBS stations are facing budget cuts and are reducing service.

Last week, West Virginia Public Broadcasting announced reduced service, blaming cuts in government and a 17% drop in corporate support last year, according to Current.

“To put it bluntly, our expenses are outpacing our revenues,” said Executive Director Dennis Adkins in a meeting Thursday with state legislators, according to a newspaper account of the session. Local public affairs TV programming has been suspended, Adkins said, and if finances do not improve, some local transmitters may be shut down, ending public TV service to those parts of the state.

Idaho public television may also be forced to end some local service, according to Current. The state system faces a fourth year with no state support for capital equipment, reported Spokane’s Spokesman-Review, just as federal funding for equipment has fallen sharply.

“Continued deferral of equipment repairs and maintenance will lead to loss of service,” said Peter Morrill, Idaho Public Television’s general manager in testimony before the state legislature last week, according to the newspaper report.