PBS SoCal, Formerly KOCE, Celebrates 50 Years Featuring Special Programming, Events, Social Media Campaign and more Initiatives Serving Southern Californians and Beyond

·12 min read

After Five Decades of Education, Inspiration and Entertainment, Flagship PBS Station Encourages Viewers to 'Continue Learning with Us'

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- PBS SoCal and KCET, Southern California's flagship PBS stations, announced today a year-long celebration to recognize the PBS SoCal (formerly known as KOCE) 50th Anniversary. Using the tagline "Continue Learning With Us" the station announced today a special programming slate over the course of the 2023 calendar that will recognize five decades of connecting communities in Orange County (where the station originated), Los Angeles and across Southern California. KOCE rebranded as PBS SoCalPB in 2011 to better associate the station with the national PBS schedule. The anniversary will mark the organization's commitment to continuing the legacy into the future.

Over the course of the year, a steady stream of celebratory in-person events are planned as well as expanding PBS SoCal's core mission in the education space with the return of Summer Learning Day. Finally, the digital and social teams will honor the landmark occasion with content to celebrate 50 years of being a trusted source of news, champion of early education, and provider of public-service information for Southern California.

"With this milestone we celebrate the extraordinary contributions PBS SoCal has made to our community over the years, and we honor the people who make possible our mission and programs every day," said PBS SoCal / KCET President and CEO Andrew Russell. "While the media landscape has changed a great deal since PBS SoCal's founding, our mission is as important today as it was 50 years ago when we first came on the air. PBS SoCal serves as a beacon of thought-provoking media for millions of Californians."

Using "the power of media for the public good," the now merged stations of PBS SoCal and KCET plan to highlight five decades of quality arts and culture, education, news and social justice content over the course of the coming year. The programming slate throughout 2023 will pay homage to two beloved PBS favorites in particular since both televisions' longest running arts anthology series GREAT PERFORMANCES and PBS's premiere Science series NOVA are also turning 50 this year. Additionally, classic episodes of MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD and special editions of SESAME STREET are also planned to run on PBS SoCal at a time that will be announced later this year.

PBS recently announced an unprecedented multiyear environmental programming initiative that explores impacts on the country and planet. This multiplatform initiative to explore climate change from diverse perspectives includes new series and specials debuting during in Earth Month in April such as HUMAN FOOTPRINT and three new editions of NOVA including "Climate Across America" which spotlights how climate change affects communities across the U.S. and engages audiences in productive conversations about innovative climate solutions.

Also, viewers can look forward to select episodes of LAaRT and other favorite locally-produced PBS SoCal series pulled from the archives to run over the course of the anniversary year as a reminder of the station's commitment to highlighting the best of Southern California. Dates and times of specific programming will be announced at a later date.

See below for a list of additional 50th Anniversary Year highlights airing on PBS SoCal in 2023 (subject to change):


  • New locally produced documentary EVERYBODY DANCE focuses on five Southern California youth with disabilities and how ballet has changed their lives. Premieres March 24.

  • New seasons of PBS SoCal viewer favorite dramas (CALL THE MIDWIFE season 12, SANDITON final season) premiere March 19 with all-new period dramas (MARIE ANTOINETTE and MASTERPIECE "Tom Jones") premiering March 19 and April 30 respectively.

  • Los Angeles resident and iconic singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell receives "The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song" at an all-star tribute in Washington, D.C. Premieres March 31.

  • Earth Month content includes three all-new specials from NOVA ("Climate Across America", "Weathering the Future" and "Chasing Carbon Zero") and the eagerly awaited second season of the series CHANGING PLANET II. Premieres throughout April.

  • New eight-episode documentary series ICONIC AMERICA: Our Symbols and Stories with David Rubenstein underscores Southern California's iconic "Hollywood Sign" highlighting the origin, significance and arc of its resonance. Premieres May 3.


  • New seasons of viewer favorite dramas (ENDEAVOUR season 8, GRANTCHESTER final season). Premieres in June.

  • An up close and personal look at the latest names in television and films from around the world comes to viewers through the curated collection of films showcased as part of the NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL U.K. HONOURS and in Season18 of PBS SoCal's locally-produced, nationally distributed VARIETY STUDIO: ACTORS ON ACTORS offering a sneak peek at the 2023 Emmy® frontrunners in intimate and exclusive conversations between today's most accomplished television actors. Premieres in June.

  • In honor of Pride month, local audiences will be treated to UNIDAD: GAY AND LESBIAN LATINOS UNIDO which chronicles the greater Los Angeles area's first major Queer Latin@ organization. Premieres in June.

  • Season 2 of the uplifting series THE GREAT AMERICAN RECIPE returns with eight new episodes of the cooking competition series that celebrates the multiculturalism that makes American food unique and iconic. Premieres June 19.

  • The new six-part documentary series HUMAN FOOTPRINT embarks on a journey to understand all the ways humans have transformed the planet. Premieres in July.


  • New three-part documentary series AMERICAN HISTORIA follows actor John Leguizamo's continued quest to uncover the history and often overlooked contributions of Latino people. Premieres Aug. 29, Sept. 5, and Sept. 12.

  • THE AMERICAN BUFFALO is the new two-part, four-hour documentary directed by Ken Burns that is the biography of the improbable beast that has found itself at the center of many of the country's most mythic and heartbreaking tales. Premieres Oct. 16.

  • New seasons of locally produced Originals ARTBOUND and LOST LA highlight new stories about Los Angeles history and arts, while a new season of FINE CUT showcases regional student filmmakers. Premieres September and October.

Impact & Events
Complementing the curated lineup of 50th anniversary content over the course of the year will be opportunities for community engagement and impact. In-person community events are being planned for the next few months for popular PBS programs that reflect the diversity of the community including a free community event on Sat., Feb. 25 from 4 p.m.7 p.m. called MAKING BLACK AMERICA: A Social Celebration of Black Joy in Music, Dance and Community. Held at the Expo Arts Center (4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, CA 90807) in partnership with the African American Cultural Center of Long Beach and public radio station KJAZZ (88.1 KKJZ), the event will feature content from the recent PBS Henry Louis Gates, Jr. series MAKING BLACK AMERICA. To learn more information about attending the event, go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-black-america-celebrate-black-joy-in-music-dance-community-tickets-518217050147

Additional events will take place over the spring, summer and fall months in recognition of other upcoming local and national content. As a community institution, PBS SoCal will also celebrate 50 years of partnerships through community partner spotlights on the PBS SoCal website.

A smaller event kicked off the anniversary celebration last November with a special event at the organization's Costa Mesa-based studio with over 40 guests who helped build and continue to support the station. Surrounded by video and images from over the years, the reception offered a chance to reconnect and share stories. Former CEO Mel Rogers joined current President and CEO Andrew Russell in offering a joint toast to thank everyone for their work, emphasizing the talents and dedication of the people involved in creating PBS SoCal/KOCE.

A larger event to commemorate the PBS SoCal/KOCE diamond anniversary is planned to take place later in 2023.

The Education team plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary by honoring the organization's deep and continued commitment to young children and families at the 2023 Summer Learning Day event this summer, which brings together thousands of families across Southern California. An annual highlight for kids, teachers, and parents in the region, Summer Learning Day is returning to the community for the first time since 2019. The station's 50th anniversary will also be celebrated in the education team's quarterly Partner Newsletter and during an annual Partner Convening in May, which brings together community organizations across the region to explore how to strengthen the partners' collective impact on early childhood learning.

Social Media
Social Media followers can also expect to see historic milestones roll out over the next several months, including a social media campaign looking back at some of PBS SoCal's most formative moments, such as being greeted to the airwaves by then-Governor Ronald Reagan, getting America painting with Bill Alexander, and being the SoCal home for many national figures like Ken Burns, Mister Rogers, Julia Child and even Big Bird. PBS SoCal will invite people to share their favorite memories and moments, including the ways in which public television has sparked their curiosity and inspired their love of learning, using #PBSSoCal50.

Digital efforts from PBS SoCal for the anniversary will roll out over the course of the year highlighting distinct programs and key anniversary moments from the past 50 years. Timelines, archival clips, and special anniversary editorial and videos will be available to visitors at pbssocal.org/50 along with access to stream beloved PBS content. Both local and national content will highlight the best that PBS has to offer as well as local events, education updates and parenting/caregiver advice in order to set the stage for another 50 years to "Continue Learning with Us."

It all started in 1964 (even before the Public Broadcasting Service or PBS name came into play in 1970) when a local educational advisory group successfully petitioned the FCC for UHF Channel 50. Signing on the air locally as KOCE-TV "educational television for Orange County" on November 20, 1972 with its very first program THE ELECTRIC COMPANY, the KOCE programming covered six hours Monday through Friday, primarily offering local public affairs shows like ORANGE COUNTY REVIEW and MAGIC OF OIL PAINTING, children's series, and iconic, popular PBS programming like 1975's MASTERPIECE "Upstairs, Downstairs" and 1990's KEN BURNS' THE CIVIL WAR.

1973 marked the airing of KOCE's first locally produced and nationally distributed telecourse. In addition to classes in anthropology, psychology and other subjects, many KOCE-produced telecourses were later marketed to campuses across the country. The 80s brought about the station's volunteer organization "The Friends of KOCE" which had over 100 members ready to support station fundraising and events. In 1995, the PBS "Ready to Learn" service was launched with PBS KIDS shows designed to help young children prepare for success in school, which went on to launch popular children's programming that included CURIOUS GEORGE, THE CAT IN THE HAT and more.

In 2001, KOCE formed a coalition with local independent stations to build new transmission facilities on Mt. Wilson and two years later, added a new transmitter in addition to the analog transmitter that allowed the station to begin multicasting and broadcasting in High Definition (becoming a fully HD television station by the end of the decade). 2004 marked the year that KOCE became an independent community licensee owned and operated by the KOCE-TV Foundation that was formed back in 1978 when it was incorporated as a non-profit corporation by California's then Secretary of State.

In 2011, KOCE was rebranded as PBS SoCal and became the new flagship PBS station for California expanding its reach into Palm Springs and Santa Barbara as well. It was also the year of the juggernaut program MASTERPIECE "Downton Abbey" that became the most watched PBS drama of all time.

In 2018 came a merger with KCET under the umbrella of the Public Media Group of Southern California in order to create original programs that reflect the diversity of the region and share the full schedule of PBS programs that viewers love and trust. With a priority of adapting for the future, the organization made a commitment to also continue its community engagement, early childhood education and social impact services.

PBS SoCal and KCET are now broadcast to more than 19 million people across six diverse Southern California counties in the second largest market in the country. Today, the organization is committed to connecting our communities across Southern California through programming and initiatives that are born out of the idea that Americans deserve a non-commercial television service whose sole mission is to educate and inspire.

Join the conversation on social media using #PBSSoCal50 along with @pbssocal

About PBS SoCal
PBS SoCal is a donor-supported community institution that delivers content and experiences that inspire, inform and entertain – over the air, online, in the community and in the classroom. Offering the full slate of beloved PBS programs including MASTERPIECE, NOVA, PBS NewsHour, FRONTLINE, Independent Lens, a broad library of documentary films including works from Ken Burns; and educational PBS KIDS programs including Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and Curious George. PBS programming is available to stream on the FREE PBS App on iOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV and Chromecast.

About PBS
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS's broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry's most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS's premier children's media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV — including a 24/7 channel — online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.

Media Contact

JP Shields, PBS SoCal and KCET, 747-201-5886, JPShields@pmgsocal.org