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'Three Tenors' a PBS Fund-Raising Hit : Television: The concert helps raise pledges of more than $1.9 million for seven of the largest affiliates. By midweek, KCET has the most, with $653,300. KOCE raises $162,000.

July 23, 1994|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Encore! The Three Tenors," a hit with its audience at Dodger Stadium last Saturday, also performed mightily backstage--in the fund-raising rooms of public-television stations across the nation.

No figure was available as to how much the program with Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras raised among PBS' 346 stations, but a survey of seven of the largest public-TV outlets found that more than $1.9 million has been pledged thus far.

KCET Channel 28 in Los Angeles is leading the pack with $653,300 and 6,408 pledges. The response was so strong that KCET reprised the program again Thursday night, a month before the next broadcast had been planned.

Barbara Goen, KCET's vice president of public information, suggested that "community pride" as well as strong listener support helped account for the high donation numbers here.

And apparently the pride didn't stop at the county border. KOCE Channel 50 in Huntington Beach raised $162,000 and gained 1,428 new members with "Three Tenors" broadcasts Sunday and Wednesday, breaking its record for money pledged during a drive pegged to a single program.

"It was phenomenal," KOCE's Nancy Lambing said Friday. "We love those guys."

Officials at other stations were equally ecstatic.

"This is definitely something out of the ballpark," exulted Tina Bachemin, a spokeswoman at KQED in San Francisco, which reported a record 4,000 pledges last weekend for $361,000.

Philadelphia's WHYY raised $174,046; Washington's WETA, $163,073; Boston's WGBH, $102,000, and Chicago's WTTW $47,000.

New York's WNET raised $414,786 over its pledge weekend, which included the live broadcast at 11 p.m., a rebroadcast the following night at 8 and a repeat airing of the first "Three Tenors" concert from March, 1990, in Rome.

Most PBS stations usually have a pledge drive in August, but stations took the opportunity to raise money now, perhaps because "The Three Tenors" concert is scheduled to be released on video and laser disc Aug. 30. KCET's Goen, however, denied that the video release had anything to do with the station's decision.

The show was a ratings hit, by PBS standards. The network said that "The Three Tenors" was seen by 18 million people in the United States during its various telecasts last weekend. The live broadcast Saturday even beat the three major commercial networks in San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix, PBS said.

PBS President Ervin S. Duggan hailed the event as "a brilliant success that underscores the power of public television to bring the best to enthusiastic millions who love the best."

The fund-raising and ratings did not come without a price, however. PBS spokesman Harry Forbes said the network had "paid more for (rights to the concert) than for any other program acquired specifically for fund-raising." He declined to say how much, as did the concert producer, Tibor Rudas.

Times staff writer Zan Dubin contributed to this report.

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