Jacobs Helps Bankroll KPBS Comeback

Twenty-eleven was a good fund-raising year for KPBS, the public broadcasting operation owned by San Diego State University, thanks in major part to billionaire Qualcomm founder and civic activist Irwin Jacobs. According to recently released annual financials, the radio-TV combo took in public contributions of $17,160,247, up substantially from 2010’s $14,847,953. The report said that $1,434,000 of the cash represented a “major gift…related to the remodel of the Gateway Center newsroom and administrative offices.”

Last year, Jacobs and wife Joan pledged a total $2.9 million to KPBS to build an elaborate gadget-filled “newsroom of the future,” designed by the pricey Luce et Studio, owned by world-famous La Jolla architect Jennifer Luce, a Jacobs favorite. “The space is inspired by KPBS and their unique approach to meaningful storytelling,” Luce said in a university news release. “The space has been transformed into an energetic news and media center surrounded by massive projection screens that foster collaboration, promote dialogue and inspire journalistic innovation. Openness breeds dialogue.” Named after the Jacobses, the newsroom opened in late October.

“KPBS is one of the better sources for news and information in our region,” said Jacobs, whose proposed Balboa Park transportation remake has drawn fierce criticism from some quarters. “Joan and I wanted to do something that would enhance their ability to cover local news.”

Including $2,523,830 from the federally backed Corporation for Public Broadcasting and about $1.4 million in “stations-generated support,” KPBS’s total operating revenue in fiscal year 2011 climbed to $21,173,791. KPBS still suffered an operating loss of $5,744,072, but it was less than the $7,015,817 reported the prior year. Regarding rising costs, the report notes that the “addition of new events including the KPBS Gala” resulted in an increase in “support services expenses” of $956,000. The report adds that KPBS’s income from state taxpayers, a potentially controversial subject given recent SDSU tuition hikes and class cutbacks, increased only slightly: “Indirect support received from the University for the years ended June 30, 2011 and 2010 was approximately $4,691,000 and $4,108,000, respectively.”

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Kudos to the Jacobs for supporting KPBS! Too bad that Dr. Jacobs support of Balboa Park is to push elective $40M cosmetic surgery while over $250M in deferred maintenance puts the basic life support of the Park at risk. Does Balboa Park really need "breast augmentation surgery" when there are so many problems?

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