KCET Channel 28 here and WGBH-TV in Boston each received grants of — the largest such grants that the independent federal agency has ever given to public television stations.
Both stations said that most of the money, which must be matched by private donations totaling three times the amount of the grant, will go toward the development, production and acquisition of television programming dealing with the humanities.
"My reaction is, 'Whoopee!' " said William Kobin, president of KCET. "Christmas has come early to KCET."
The awards to KCET and WGBH were among 41 challenge grants announced by the endowment. Under a program begun in 1977 to strengthen humanities organizations and institutions and to stimulate private-sector support for them, it said it will give a total of $14.9 million over three years to a wide range of universities, museums, libraries and other organizations.
The only other California grant went to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, which received $720,000 to expand and maintain its library.
Officials at both KCET and WGBH said that they plan to use the $750,000 from the endowment and the $2.25 million they must raise in matching funds to establish a pool of money that can be used to get new projects off the ground, complete others that have been only partially financed by outside sources and acquire still others that have been produced elsewhere.
"It helps us commission scripts, develop proposals, produce pilot material, acquire programs and buy ancillary rights (such as for foreign, pay-TV and home video sales) that we frequently must give up to get up-front production money," Kobin explained.
All $3 million will go into the pool at WGBH, according to Susan Galler, a fund-raising executive at the station, with some of it to be used for the development of humanities programming for radio as well as for television.
At KCET, terms of the grant call for 80% to go into the programming fund and 20% to be spent on purchasing new production equipment for the station, Kobin said.
Kobin declined to specify any projects currently in development at KCET that might benefit by Wednesday's grant. Programs under consideration at WGBH, Galler said, include a series commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World, a series about painting and a series to teach viewers French.
Both executives said that they hope to replenish their humanities programming pools and keep them alive for up to 10 years. That could be done by collecting interest on the money, by generating revenues through ancillary sales of the programs and by charging the development costs of a project to the underwriters who eventually are lined up to fund production.
Kobin said he is confident that Channel 28 will be able to raise the money necessary to obtain all of the endowment grant.