On Saturday, October 21st, PBS SoCal KOCE celebrated 45 astonishing years of meaningful programming, invaluable educational guidance for children, and community-building at the renowned Avalon Hollywood. The 90-year-old nightclub/theater, which has hosted remarkable events, including the Beatles’ West Coast debut in 1964, was the site of a gathering of like-minded individuals, including mascots Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George, who were on hand to pay homage to PBS SoCal’s significant milestone.
The non-profit television station, which would have had a difficult time establishing itself in 1972 were it not for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s approval of the Public Broadcasting Act five years prior, has produced content that is not only substantive, but heartfelt and fulfilling. Socially progressive initiatives encompass and underscore an ambitious desire to do more than just entertain, as the organization has persistently dared to be measurably different than its TV peers. With historical documentaries, as well as shows that spotlight art, science, and music, PBS SoCal has commendably taken on the responsibility of positively influencing the unending swath of Greater Los Angeles and Southern California.
The 45th-anniversary gala, which was co-chaired by sponsors Pep and Renee Valdes, had its share of talented singers, musicians, and even an aerial acrobat; however, it was particularly memorable for its group of speakers, who concisely and cogently reminded those present of PBS SoCal’s continuous mission to do right by its viewers.
One of the speakers was the highly esteemed Rebecca Eaton, who joyously remarked how she has been with PBS for the last 45 years, where she’s had the privilege of making monumental inroads in programming. For the last three decades, she has executive-produced “MASTERPIECE,” which, as a result of outstanding original productions like “Sherlock,” Downton Abbey,” and “Victoria,” has earned her a whopping 62 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Actor and lawyer Matthew Arkin (son of Alan Arkin) gave a moving speech about PBS SoCal’s tireless dedication to providing well-informed information to its audience, either in conventional terms via PBS “NewsHour,” or as a historical learning tool by way of the documentary series, “FRONTLINE.” To wit, “The Vietnam War,” an 18-hour epic by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, is one of these many heralded documentaries, taking an astounding 10 years to come to fruition – an important fact that accentuates PBS as a rare television entity that exercises remarkable patience and commitment to long-term planning. Even better, such efforts have regularly yielded dividends in the form of loyal enthusiasts, who have become inherent to the station’s everlasting legacy.
Erin Gruwell, founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, whose “Freedom Writers” were honored by PBS SoCal in April 2016, spoke reverently about PBS KIDS programs, and was especially proud of the content-focused “To Foster Change” outreach initiative. Having been a life-changing teacher herself at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, CA, Gruwell knows, first-hand, how crucial awareness is in promoting change and improvement in the lives of those who come from less-than-fortunate socioeconomic and familial origins. For Gruwell, nothing is more impactful than children who absorb this message of hope and pay it forward by teaching others. It is then, and only then, that realities can be altered for the better, as children grow out of their backgrounds to become thriving adults.
Speaking last was President & CEO of PBS SoCal, Andrew Russell, who aptly unified PBS SoCal’s mission statement. Under Russell’s leadership, since he joined in 2013, PBS SoCal has expanded its content distribution channels, grown culturally transformative partnerships, and has merited the designation of being the third most-watched PBS station in the nation. Certainly, while favorable market dynamics have played a role in PBS SoCal’s impressive success, it is the consistently worthwhile subject matter for all ages that is the prime reason. As Russell eloquently said, “We always aim to bring the best in media to our supporters. Our programs promote discussion and enrichment, where children and adults can model great things and become bold thinkers.”
For more information about PBS SoCal, please visit pbssocal.org