Balboa Park controversy's Jacobs backs lavish Edwardian-themed KPBS funder

Corporations buy their way on to state-owned non-profit's air via "Downtown Abbey" event offering 44 TV spots, 60 radio spots, and 30,000 Internet ads, “sponsorship kit” says

KPBS, the public broadcasting operation owned and run by taxpayer-funded San Diego State University, is planning to stage a lavish downtown fundraising bash for well-heeled backers, allowing advertisers to "Reach KPBS' Most Loyal and Affluent Audience,” according to a “sponsorship kit” produced by the stations:

On Sunday nights, drama is king on KPBS, with Downton Abbey on MASTERPIECE. This year, more than 63 thousand San Diegans watched the award winning series.

KPBS is pleased to announce Downtown Abbey as the theme for the 2013 KPBS Celebrates Gala. Taking place on May 4, 2013 at the U.S. Grant, more than 200 station supporters are anticipated to attend and experience an unforgettable evening in Edwardian England.

The biggest name on the list of backers is La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs, the Qualcomm founder and KPBS funder who has provided the San Diego State operation with a $2.9 million news room, named after him and wife Joan.

Stations’ spokeswoman Nancy Worley says Jacobs and his wife, members of the honorary committee for the annual fundraiser, are currently down for $10,000, less than Darlene Shiley, another of the stations’ regular financial angels, with $50,000.

San Diego’s richest man and a top national Democratic donor who gave more than $2 million to Barack Obama super PACS and to defeat Republican senate candidates, Jacobs has also used his political cash to cultivate the loyalty of San Diego politicos, including various city council members and GOP ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, who last year was the key mover behind Qualcomm's lucrative "Snapdragon Stadium" promotional gambit, later declared illegal by the city attorney.

Jacobs is also responsible for a controversial traffic and parking makeover of Balboa Park, approved by the city council last summer but currently being challenged in court by the Save Our Heritage Organisation.

A personal foe of current mayor Bob Filner, an ex-Democratic congressman, Jacobs endorsed GOP city councilman Carl DeMaio during last year's mayoral campaign.

Some Filner backers claim that their candidate came in for especially rough treatment by the station during an interview last year, an assertion rejected today by Worley.

Last week Qualcomm, Inc. was hit by a lawsuit by the Comptroller of New York state that references Jacobs and his son, company CEO Paul Jacobs regarding allegations that the cell phone giant has been less than forthcoming in the disclosure of its considerable political money giving.

Meanwhile, back in San Diego, Jacobs will not be alone in his support of the high-society party.

Individuals and corporations can purchase a piece of the action, notes the document, for sufficient cash. The biggest spenders will "receive meaningful recognition that reaches the KPBS audience."

Platinum sponsors, who pay $30,000, get 44 15-second commercials on the KPBS television station, along with 60 spots of the same length on the radio, as well as 30,000 "impressions" on the station's news website. Total retail value, the document says, is $45,300.

Also included: a full-page advertisement in the gala program, as well as "prominently displayed" signage "viewed by all attendees," along with mention on invitations "distributed to 1000 members and supporters," plus online plugs, news release mentions, and a "public thank you" from KPBS general manager Tom Karlo "during presentation." Ten tickets to the event, valued at $5,000, are also part of the deal.

Last spring, general manager Karlo sent an email to wealthy contributors acknowledging that the percentage of viewers who gave money to the station was low.

“Once again, I’d like to thank you for being a very special kind of person. What do I mean by that? Just this: only 11% of all our viewers can be counted among our supporters, and you are among those few.… “It’s an unfortunate fact that the regular annual support of our members is not sufficient to pay for all the outstanding programs you expect from KPBS.”

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"the percentage of viewers who gave money to the station was low"

I can only remember Gloria Penner and her lame political interviews with Jerry Sanders. KPBS will never get any money from me. But I like to watch D Abbey! KPBS seems to be where the local money class in SD congregates to collectively pretend that they are some kind of royalty. Not interesting, not interested.

This is simply a way to insure support from the educated/liberal/elite if the county. Sadly, in his decline, Irwin Jacobs is trying to buy his dubious "vision" for the city and many of its institutions. He now owns KPBS and/or its loyalties, and when he wants something to happen can bring that station into his corner with merely a raised eyebrow. Money talks, and when it comes to the local talk station of record, KPBS, he can get anything and everything he wants placed in a most favorable light. When some record is made of this new "Gilded Age" or as it was known on a more visceral level, "The Age of the Robber Baron", one I. Jacobs will be well remembered as putting his considerable money just where it would get him his desired memorial.

A few years ago, Jacobs really did fund some worthy causes, and could be seen as a nice guy. But now that's all out the window, and he's buying his idiosyncratic vision for the city and county. And voters be damned.

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