The Morning Report
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Doug Myrland, the general manager of KPBS called to explain a few things about the demise of “Full Focus.”
First, here’s the station’s press release here.
First things first: Myrland wanted it to be clear that KPBS was not losing money. Revenues for the station will actually be a bit higher this year than they were last year, he said.
Myrland and the station canceled “Full Focus,” he said, because of two reasons: 1) too few people were watching it and 2) they couldn’t afford to try to improve it so that television viewers would tune in.
“I don’t want to give the impression that our finances were shrinking,” Myrland said. “That’s not the case. We are not looking at a declining financial picture. I don’t want to plead poverty.”
That said, the station did lay off 12 people — three were part time and one was on contract. The show cost KPBS approximately $1 million a year to produce, Myrland said. Host Gloria Penner, executive producer Natalie Walsh and reporter Amita Sharma were spared and are going to do different jobs in the operation. Myrland said that Penner had told the station months ago that she wanted to leave “Full Focus” and spend more time on reporting assignments and Editor’s Roundtable, the Friday morning radio show.
Myrland kept getting back to the fact that the station simply couldn’t boost the audience for the show despite many attempts to improve its presentation. The audience during the first hour of the morning radio show “These Days” is two to three times larger than the half-hour television show, Myrland said.
“Full Focus” Producer Pat Finn estimated that 13,000 households watched the show, according to ratings.
Myrland said the low ratings were a mystery.
“We’re creating a lot of hours of programming,” he said. “So, on one level, we’re creating a lot of content we’re proud of. But if nobody is paying attention, why continue to do that? Why not try to find a way to create equally good content that people will appreciate?”
So does that mean they will just be creating new and different shows?
Not exactly, Myrland said. The station has no plans to launch anything new. He said the station would continue to work on projects like the forum on immigration it hosted several months ago.
Myrland said that Keith York, the director of television operations, would be given a budget to do new programming.
“But certainly not $1 million a year,” he said.
Now, as for the weekend radio show “A Way with Words,” Myrland said he was happy with the audience the show had.
He said, however, the station was spending $250,000 a year to maintain it and that was too much.
“That is way more expensive than an hour of local radio programming should cost,” Myrland said.
So why did they start it in the first place? The point was to take it national, Myrland said. Many public radio shows that are known and enjoyed around the country originate at local stations. But National Public Radio wasn’t interested in “A Way with Words” and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting refused to provide a grant for it.
So it’s done.
“We can invest that money in our other radio programming and do a lot with it,” Myrland said.
I brought up my point that they could have pleaded with “Full Focus” fans to make one last push to save the program.
He said invariably, when shown a menu of the programs they could support at the station, potential donors would skip over the television program.
“Nobody should think we didn’t try to raise money for that program,” he said.
So, it is the finances, at the same time it’s not. The program was a quality one, but at the same time, too few people were watching. They plan on doing equally good content and attracting more people, but don’t have any plans in the works for a replacement.
Sounds like they just needed a change. I hope an outlet will emerge for the kind of interviews and forums the show provided.