James Loper, founder and president of Los Angeles public television station KCET, has passed away in Pasedena, California at the age of 81.
Loper’s career in public television began when he joined the Committee for Educational Television while studying at the University of Southern California in the early 1960s. Through the group, he was a strong advocate for the creation of a public television station in Los Angeles, which came to pass with the launch of KCET in 1964.
Loper was the station’s director of educational television when it first went on air, and then took on the roles of vice president and general manager a couple of years later, moving up to the role of president in 1971 – a role he would keep until 1983.
Under his tenure, KCET brought three Peabody Award-winning programs to air: Hollywood Television Theater, Visions, and one true non-fiction classic: Cosmos, starring and coproduced by astronomer Carl Sagan. The station left the PBS fold in 2011 and has since merged with Link Media to become KCETLink.
Loper also served as a founding chairman of PBS in the early 1970s for three terms.
From KCET, Loper moved on to become executive director of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1984, a post he would hold until 1999. During his tenure, the Emmy Awards broadened its scope to recognize programs airing on cable television in addition to broadcast. He would also go on to lecture at his former school, and was an adjunct faculty member at USC Annenberg from 2001-2009, teaching courses on American media and the entertainment industry.
“Jim Loper left an indelible mark on the history of KCET and public television,” said Al Jerome, current president of KCETLink, in a statement, adding that “public media has lost a true champion.”
James Loper is survived by his wife, a daughter and son, and six grandchildren.