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Capitalism? Nevada PBS Station Cancels After-School Children's Shows to Meet Audience Demand


"our ratings were not as high as we like"

PBS, named in a national survey earlier this year as the No.1 educational media brand in the United States, boasts that as public television with 360 member stations it is available to 98 percent of the country's children. But as public broadcasting that is paid for "in part by viewers like you" -- a familiar phrase if you're a fan of PBS -- it needs to tailor itself to its audience. For one station, this meant afternoon children's programming had to go.

Beginning 2012, KNPB, which serves parts of Nevada and California, is swapping out some of its children's programming in the afternoon hours for shows like Antiques Roadshow, NOVA, Nature, This Old House, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By and Monarch of the Glen.

“These schedule improvements are the result of careful research, listening to viewer comments and analyzing our market,” Kurt Mische, KNPB President & CEO, said in a press release. “KNPB is seen by nearly 160,000 people in 71,000 households in central and northern Nevada and northeast California. While that is an atypically large audience for a PBS station, we had some days and times where our ratings were not as high as we like, meaning we had the opportunity to better serve our viewers."

Paul Kiser on Technorati writes that programs like The Electric Company, Cyberchase, Super Why!, WordWorld and Arthur -- shows ranging for ages 6 to 11 years old -- will no longer be aired. He notes that in making these changes, KNPB puts itself behind other PBS stations in the area in terms of hours designated to children's shows. Kiser also includes this quote, which he calls ironic, from Mische, appearing in the station's 2010 annual report:

KNPB is proud to be a leader in education. At a time when education in Nevada garners its share of negative publicity, KNPB is taking action to impact education and life-long learning. We broadcast 52 hours per week of award winning, high quality, and trusted children’s programs that delight and teach youngsters.

In the press release, Mische emphasizes that even though its cutting 2.5 hours of children's programming each day it will still run shows from 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and additional programs on the weekend. With the new 2012 schedule, KNPB will air 36 hours of kid's shows. Kiser also states that Mische said shows like Nature and NOVA will still provide an educational experience for children in the afternoon hours.

Kiser found in a survey of PBS children's programming in the western U.S. that KNPB will be the only one without kids shows in the after school hours.

Kiser notes that other PBS stations around the country are having problems with funding as well, but some have taken another stance on children's programming. He writes that Ron Pisaneschi, the director of content for the PBS affiliate in Boise, Idaho, recognizes the competition for children's attention on cable networks but "even though the audience is small, we want to serve them."

Similarly, to serve a children's audience on his own station, Glenn Beck launched Liberty Treehouse on GBTV earlier this year. The program hosted by Raj Nair features news at a child's level, history, science, art and classic TV shows that mom and dad may have watched in their youth.

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