Wow, so apparently over the weekend, KPBS GM Doug Myrland unleashed on one of the public station’s blogs. Myrland and the station have heard a fair share of complaints about the cancellation of the television show “Full Focus.”

But the complaints, to me, don’t seem to be just about “Full Focus.” Ask any government official what happens when you cut services at the same time you announce that your revenues are going up.

People don’t like that.

Well, the same thing basically happened at KPBS. Myrland undoubtedly has to make tough choices from time to time, but it’s pretty unreasonable to expect that people aren’t going to be rather upset when you cancel a service without providing either a replacement program or a plan to do so.

Yet Myrland let loose on the station’s supporters this weekend.

Gloria Penner, the host of “Full Focus,” had penned a little piece about the show’s demise. Several readers responded below and they were joined by Myrland himself, who let out some frustration:

I don’t know where people get the odd idea that we should survey members on every management decision we make. KPBS has been in existence for 46 years, and NEVER has it been a collective, or even a participatory democracy. I make decisions in the same way every General Manager before me did.

Readers seized on the contention Myrland made on the radio last week that, although the station wasn’t losing money, the reason he had canceled “Full Focus” came out of an effort of “ordering the priorities” at the station.

It appears, though, that without a plan to replace the program, it was merely a service cut. One that came in spite of the fact that revenue has grown for the station.

And Myrland responded:

“Ordering the priorities” is a polite way of saying we wanted to get rid of under-performing activities in favor of things we thought would attract more viewers and listeners. Time will tell if we’re right or wrong. Isn’t that plain enough?

This process doesn’t need to be “transparent.” We aren’t elected officials — every budget line item and every personnel decision and every bit of information we collect is not everybody else’s business. Just because you give a contribution or pay taxes doesn’t give you the right to decide — or even influence — what goes on the air and what doesn’t. Our audited financials are on the web site. Our [Corporation for Public Broadcasting] report is on the web site. I go on the air, and in this forum, to explain the major decisions we make. That’s all the “transparency” that is required or appropriate.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion. But as I said on the radio, listeners and viewers get to decide only if they want to watch or to listen.

Myrland kept going and, eventually, this morning, he apologized.

First of all, I again apologize for my original post. I had come to the end of a very long and difficult week, and I was certainly inappropriately defensive and harsh. So I hope you’ll accept my apologies.

But I still think — the whole time he was going back and forth with readers — that he missed the main point. The questions don’t seem to be about “Full Focus” as much as the consternation over the fact that KPBS — as Myrland says — is not hurting financially. So why are they cutting the programs they previously offered?

He says they’ll be doing newer, better stuff. He probably should have planned to say what that stuff will be if he wanted to avoid at least some of the consternation from supporters.


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