Kliff Kuehl is one fired-up CEO. As head of KCPT, Kansas City Public Television, he’s responsible for engaging not just the loyal audience that tunes in to watch quality programming each week but also the community at large. A transplant to Johnson County from Reno, Nev., in 2009 where he worked for KNPB, Kuehl has a daunting job at a time when funds for public television–which receives about 15 percent from its non-profit parent, Corporation for Public Broadcasting–are sometimes challenging to raise. Since the mid-2000s respected national Roper public opinion polls place the service as America’s most trusted national institution–a fact that Kuehl and his savvy team use in fundraising pitches. To maintain that good-as-gold trust, KCPT–along with the other 353 member stations across the country–must remain a verifiable benefit to the community. That means that in addition to classics such as “Frontline,” “PBS NewsHour” and “Masterpiece” and more than 50 hours of wildly popular Emmy award-winning kids’ shows such as “Arthur” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” KCPT must be relevant to its hometown audience. So Kuehl and company partner with local organizations like the Mid-America Regional Council (“Imagine KC” debuted in November and shares a vision for a more vibrant city) and Johnson County Community College where interns create station content. Perhaps KCPT’s most successful foray into the local audience is “Check Please,” a high-spirited restaurant review format with vaunted wine guy Doug Frost and a revolving panel of pedestrian pundits. KCPT long ago shed an image of a broadcasting dinosaur and today is part of the social media scene and the dynamic conversation on both sides of the state line about what makes the region one of the country’s most desirable places to live, work and play. Kuehl, who lives in Johnson County with his wife, Sherry, and two children who attend Blue Valley School District elementary and high schools, is blind to the line that dissects the city. “I spend 12 hours a day in Missouri, spend the night in Leawood and see the metro as a playground. I love it.” And we love Kuehl, who is polishing one of the area’s most beloved assets so it glows for all of us. v
GET YOUR LOCAL ON: “We’re convening an editorial advisory board to help us develop more local shows–it’s all about moving the needle for the community.”
ARTS, INNOVATION, PHILANTHROPY: “At KCPT we have the unique ability to focus in on what makes this area so important. Unlike our local network counterparts, we don’t have to worry about a daily local news machine. It’s our responsibility to help viewers understand where the city has been and where it needs to go.”
WHAT STATE LINE? “We have more than 800,000 viewers each week watch our three stations–KCPT, KCPT2 and KCPT3–that offer diverse and compelling programming. There’s something for everyone, no matter where you live.”
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: “‘Check Please’ has San Francisco, Miami and Chicago versions. We’ve customized this innovative format to KC with local treasure Doug Frost and on any given night, 20,000 people watch. That’s impressive.”
For more information visit www.kcpt.org.
words: Kimberly Winter Stern
photo: Blixt Photography