A Happy Union Between KCET and LinkTV

When prominent Los Angeles public television station KCET split from PBS over the cost of membership dues and announced it would no longer carry PBS programming, many wondered how KCET might function as an independent local station. Last week we got a glimpse of how that might play out, and it’s a reminder that in cities like L.A., our local media also need to be global media.

On Oct. 16, the boards of KCET and the noncommercial satellite and Web journalism organization LinkTV agreed to merge. The merger comes on the heels of a number of interesting and important new collaborative efforts that are more deeply uniting traditional public broadcasters with innovative online projects.

In St. Louis, the local public radio station and the St. Louis Beacon, an independent nonprofit news organization, are exploring a formal “alliance.” In New Orleans, the local NPR station and the Lens, a nonprofit newsroom, are developing a multimedia newsroom collaboration. Late last year, American Public Media acquired the crowdfunding platform Spot.Us.

This trend is heartening, and reinforces our call earlier this year for a new vision for noncommercial media that is greater than the sum of its parts. As the noncommercial media sector plays an increasingly important role in the American media landscape, there is a growing recognition that we are stronger together than we are apart.

However, the KCET/LinkTV deal is particularly interesting and suggests some powerful reasons why these noncommercial mergers and collaborations can help serve local communities.

For KCET, bringing LinkTV on is a quick and easy way to build its Web capacity. LinkTV has pioneered innovative Web projects like the ViewChange platform, which connects media and social change and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. LinkTV’s expertise in this space will be a great boost for the longtime public broadcaster.

The addition of LinkTV’s diverse, global and people-centered content will give KCET a unique portfolio of programs unmatched by many other public broadcasters. Some might look at LinkTV’s programs and consider them too “edgy” for public TV, but it’s encouraging that KCET saw this as an opportunity, not a threat. This merger also shows that there’s more to global news and entertainment than BBC news and British dramas. LinkTV produces a diverse array of stories and programs featuring voices and viewpoints from around the globe. This is a great fit for a city like Los Angeles.

For LinkTV, the merger offers a popular new platform and a chance to broaden its reach into the local community. Public TV is still the most trusted place on the dial for news and information and that credibility is a great endorsement of LinkTV’s work.

Media mergers can and often do lead to less news, programming and services for local communities. But in some cases, two very different organizations can come together and leverage each other’s unique resources in a way that benefits both them and their audiences. I’m hopeful that the new relationship between LinkTV and KCET will do just that.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good