An 18-year-old San Diego man is in hot water with the PBS television network over his reported claims to be the anointed successor to “Mr. Rogers,” the late children’s star.

In a complaint filed with the California attorney general’s office, PBS claims that Michael Kinsell is “falsely claiming association” with the network and the defunct TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the public-broadcasting trade journal Current reported today.

Kinsell says he has created a TV show called “Michael’s Enchanted Neighborhood,” and he’s holding a benefit event in Escondido next Sunday that is being touted as offering perhaps “the biggest celebrity turnout in the history for San Diego.”

The event will honor Fred Rogers, who hosted “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” from 1968 to 2001.

But PBS says Kinsell is misrepresenting himself, and it warns that “alleged charities” will receive funding from donations.

Current reported:

Kinsell, his show and the gala are “in no way are connected” to PBS or Rogers’ production company in Pittsburgh, Family Communications Inc., said FCI Chief Operating Officer Kevin Morrison. “Both organizations on a number of occasions have asked Mr. Kinsell to stop using logos, trademarks and copyrighted materials.”

In a certified letter sent to Kinsell May 5, PBS said it and Family Communications had contacted Kinsell previously and asked him to cease and desist from associating himself with PBS, FCI and PBS member stations.

Kinsell denied receiving “anything like that.” He said he got “a few e-mails” from FCI, “and the only thing they said was to be careful if we used (Rogers’) picture.” A photo and a video of Rogers appear on the event website.

Kinsell’s benefit event is scheduled for Sunday at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, and he is reportedly selling tickets for as much as $500. A May 13 story in the North County Times about the event said PBS will air Kinsell’s show and reported that Rogers’ family is scheduled to attend and accept a cash award.

Kinsell suggested to Current that stars like Bette Midler, Tom Hanks, and Eddie Murphy may be at the event.

According to Current, PBS’s complaint says an unnamed entertainer “delayed a trip to entertain U.S troops in Iraq to participate” after receiving assurances that the event was approved by PBS.

KPBS-TV, San Diego’s public television station, has its own role in the brouhaha. Spokeswoman Nancy Worlie told me that Kinsell and his mother asked the station in 2007 to produce episodes of his show.

KPBS-FM, which produces shows for the public on a contract basis, drafted a $54,000 agreement but “we never saw a dime from them” and the show wasn’t produced, Worlie said.

Later, she said, Kinsell “was falsely representing his relationship with KPBS to raise money for his program.”


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