CPB Office of the Ombudsman

Program Changes at KPCC

Joel Kaplan

October 1, 2012

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting awarded a $1.8 million grant last December to Southern California Public Radio as part of a multi-cultural journalism initiative in Southern California.

The purpose of the grant was to help SCPR to expand its locally produced, mid-day programming, including the development of a new two-hour news magazine program that would focus on topics of interest to Southern California's diverse communities.

But Ted Kelly, a listener of KPCC, the Southern California Public Radio station based in Pasadena, thinks the grant is being misused.

"KPCC has used your $1.8 million grant to remove the Patt Morrison show and replace it with BBC News and The World," Mr. Kelly wrote. "Patt Morrison carried segments on local and national issues and included local callers to ask questions and make comments. This is good. 'Canned' BBC News and The World are essentially corporate news programs. They're not exactly evil, but when you give funding so that they replace a local news interaction program, then they have been used for evil. What are you thinking????"

Mr. Kelly then followed up with a phone call, accusing KPCC of lying about what it was going to use the grant for, since the station promised to use the grant for local programming and instead replaced a local show with a BBC broadcast.

However, officials from both CPB and KPCC say that Mr. Kelly is mistaken about what the public radio station used the grant money for and that they have kept to their promises.

The Patt Morrison show was, in fact, canceled and replaced with the BBC programming. But that was not what the grant was used for. The grant went to the expansion of the Madeleine Brand show from one hour to two hours and the appointment of a co-host for that show, A Martinez. The new show runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Still, to Mr. Kelly, it looked like KPCC took the grant and removed a local show—Patt Morrison—to replace it with two international shows, BBC Newshour and The World.

"There are many moving parts in coming program changes at KPCC, not all related to the CPB grant," said Craig Curtis, KPCC program director. "And as is the case with any programming change, whether large or small, we have received many complaints. But that's par for the course."

Bruce Theriault, senior vice president, radio for CPB said the grant was originally a part of the One Nation Project that focused on expanding public radio's reach into the area's ethnic communities. In this case, the expansion of the Madeleine Brand show to two hours "aligned with our priority of diversifying audiences and this was an attempt to engage with Latino and other ethnic audiences in Southern California."

"Stations make programming decisions all the time and people are unhappy but these are not related to the grant," Mr. Theriault added.

Russ Stanton, vice president of content for Southern California Public Radio, reiterated that position.

"The two events are mostly unrelated," he said. "The CPB grant is to fund expansion of the Brand show and for our newsroom."

He added that one reason the station went with the BBC show was because of viewer input.

"Two years ago we pulled the BBC show to put the Brand show on," Mr. Stanton said. "The listeners went berserk. We were looking at a way to put the BBC back on so we expanded the Brand show by an hour and gave an hour for the BBC."

Mr. Stanton said that while the Morrison show is no longer being broadcast, Ms. Morrison has agreed to stay on and perform other duties for the station.

Ironically, after all that rejiggering, Ms. Brand decided that she did not like the new format and announced she was leaving the show to pursue other opportunities. Alex Cohen replaced her.

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