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KCET-TV 'on Target' to End Fiscal Year Even

June 22, 1995|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KCET-TV Channel 28 has adopted a $43.7-million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and President and CEO William H. Kobin sounded upbeat about it Wednesday. "We're in a strong [fiscal] position," he said.

What seemed to have been a looming fiscal crisis three weeks ago with a nearly $1.9-million shortfall--prompting an urgent fund-raising letter to subscribers from Chief Operating Officer Donald G. Youpa, in which he warned that "further cuts will take their toll on programming"--has now apparently disappeared.

The members responded. Barbara Goen, vice president for public information and station spokeswoman, said the station is now "on target" to finish its fiscal year even.

"We're in this position almost every year," Kobin explained. "Unfortunately, some of our major revenue activities are in the last quarter of the year. . . . We've even considered whether we ought to change our fiscal year. We frequently, in the last few years, have a fourth-quarter race to the finish line."

Although the projected budget for fiscal year 1996 is $1 million larger than last year's projection, Goen said that when the final audited results are done in August, the two budgets will probably turn out to be "not terribly dissimilar. There was less money spent [this fiscal year] and more money brought in" than had been anticipated.

Despite the national focus on cutbacks in federal funding for public broadcasting, KCET says it will receive the same $2.3-million general-purpose grant from the Corp. for Public Broadcasting in fiscal 1996 that it got this year.

Kobin said the new production budget will be $10.8 million--which is down from this year's projected $12.2 million. The basic difference, Goen said, is that most production on KCET's two major children's series, "The Puzzle Place" and "Storytime," has concluded.

Indeed, KCET's focus has now shifted. Unlike the current year, when children's programming was the largest single item in the programming budget, projected at $5 million, it is public-affairs programming that will take center stage in 1996, with $4.5 million earmarked for the Emmy Award-winning local series "Life & Times" and two projects for national broadcast on PBS. They are the eight-hour "The Great War," about World War I, which will air in September, 1996, and the three-hour "Crime and Punishment," which is scheduled for the 1996-97 season. Both are executive produced by Blaine Baggett, director of public affairs and feature documentaries at KCET.

Meanwhile, KCET announced that the James Irvine Foundation has made a grant of $1 million in its ongoing support of "Life & Times." The grant guarantees production for the fifth and sixth seasons, through June, 1997. Altogether, "Life & Times" is KCET's largest single programming commitment at $3 million a year, covering 22 documentaries and 166 studio shows.

Also on the programming budget: $2 million will go toward children's programming and $2 million toward educational enterprises. The rest is under a loose miscellaneous heading. "We're making a real effort to set aside program-development money," Goen said.

In subscriptions and unrestricted contributions, KCET is projecting some growth. Goen said the current fiscal year will probably bring in $17.1 million, and the station is budgeting $17.9 million for 1996. "The Southern California economy seems to be rebounding slightly, and we think this is a realistic projection," she said.

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