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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

January 10, 2011 at 4:12 PM

More on “Ebert Presents At the Movies” and KCTS 9

Just got off the phone with Randy Brinson, head of programming at Seattle’s public TV station KCTS 9 (his official title: executive director of content development). I asked him several questions about the station’s decision to not pick up “Ebert Presents At the Movies,” the subject of an earlier blog today. Two main points to take away from the conversation: Brinson said that the decision was due to “scheduling logistics and financial reality” and not to the merits of the show (“I think anyone would assume that a program that is associated with Roger Ebert would be of high quality, and that would be our expectation”), and that those who disagree with the decision should contact the station to share their views (email: start@kcts9.org). He said he’s already heard from several people today, and that the station has been known to change its mind. (Due to overwhelming demand from viewers, he said, the station recently reinstated a New Year’s Eve showing of a Great Performances concert from Vienna that had originally been cancelled. “We heard from enough [viewers] that we changed our schedule.”)
Elaborating on his statement posted by a commenter on Ebert’s blog, Brinson said that the concern was that pledge breaks might pre-empt the show, whose movie-review segments are time-critical. It would, he said, “get pre-empted on a regular basis, as a normal course of events due to our occasional pledge programming,” and this, he felt, would lead to viewer frustration. I asked him why, if so, 48 of 50 markets in the country were able to commit to the show on public television stations, all of which presumably have pledge programming. “I’d be very interested to see what kind of schedule strategy some of those stations have used,” he said, saying that the station would be “keeping an eye on it.”
He said he was unable to estimate how much pledge-break time KCTS has in a typical month (though he offered to get that information to me), and declined to compare that to other markets with any specifics. “I think we probably have more pledge drives than some,” he said, “but others have more pledge drives than we do.” Brinson said the station has a goal of cutting pledge-break time by 5 percent this year, but that the current economy presents fundraising challenges. KCTS, he noted, is community licensed, rather than operated by a university or state agency, “so we don’t have any built-in government support from the state level. Other stations have more support that might [air pledge drives] less than we do.”
Of “Ebert Presents At the Movies,” he reiterated that it was “a hard decision to make — this is a town that loves its movies.” He pointed to other movie-related programming on the channel (Reel Northwest, Best of Fest, Independent Lens), and said several times that the station is open to revisiting the decision, and will be watching the Ebert series to see how it does. So, feel free to vent on my blog, but be sure to contact KCTS (again, start@kcts9.org) and tell them what you’re thinking.

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