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THE BIG MIX : Television : Around the World in a Day at KSCI-TV Channel 18

February 05, 1989|DANIEL CERONE

On a typical Saturday at KSCI-TV Channel 18, the mix starts at 7:30 a.m. with Cambodian Television, a locally produced show that offers advice to new immigrants. Vietnamese, Armenian and Indian programming rounds out the morning. Filipinos share air time in the afternoon with news and cultural fare from the Arabic and Mideast community.

"Tele Periodoco," a news program from El Salvador, comes on at 6 p.m. Saturday evenings belong to the Japanese with first-run ninja dramas from Hong Kong and shows such as "Shinkon-San Irasshai," the Japanese version of the "Newlywed Game." At midnight, "China Today" explores news and features from the People's Republic of China, followed by international movies until dawn.

KSCI, broadcast to the greater Los Angeles area and carried by more than 75 cable systems from Ventura to San Diego, also programs shows in Korean, French, Italian, Hebrew, Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai and Pakistani. Many of the programs include English subtitles to draw American audiences.

Despite a world council of television programmers, KSCI's primary audience is the estimated 2.7 million Asians living in Southern California who spend a reported $12 billion annually.

"Our Asian emphasis is a marketing question," said Ray Beindorf, president and general manager of KSCI, which allots more time to Korean and Japanese shows than to any other single ethnic group. "Because of their sheer numbers and spending power, they are the ones best equipped to buy time and put on the programming."

Asahi Homecast, a Japanese programming group in San Gabriel, purchases its television shows from major Japanese networks. Like all of KSCI's programmers, Asahi buys time on Channel 18 and then sells its own advertising.

"When shows arrive from Japan, they still have Japanese advertisements," said Asahi's president, Mayumi Shirai. "We erase commercials and insert our own local advertising. It works out well. There's no way we could afford to buy our own station."

While none can afford a television station, some of the ethnic production companies do own studios. Korean Television Enterprises in Los Angeles has news trucks, two sophisticated studios, three Betacams and a news team of 15 people that scour the city for "KTE News," a nightly Korean newscast on KSCI.

"Los Angeles is known to Koreans as the Seoul outside of Korea," said C.K. Han, KTE's coordinating producer.

KTE has worked on projects with the Korean Broadcasting System. Last March, KTE's local television facilities were used to tape "Kayomudai," a colorful musical revue staged at the Shrine Auditorium and broadcast in Korea on KBS.

Later in the summer, KTE in Los Angeles carried KBS' Korean coverage of the 1988 Olympic Games from Seoul. A research study by Pacific Rim Advertising revealed that more Koreans in the Los Angeles area watched the games on KSCI than on KNBC.

Fincher said most of KSCI's Asian viewers own VCRs, sometimes two or three, to record late night shows. KSCI market research indicates more than 80% of its audience owns a VCR, in comparison with Arbitron estimates of 62% for the total Los Angeles market.

Even with its abundance of Asian programming, KSCI's format is spiced with special-interest shows for almost every ethnic group in Los Angeles. "Arya in L.A.," hosted and produced by 38-year-old Jamie Kent, is a cross between Geraldo Rivera and a Persian edition of "Eye on L.A."

"I did investigative piece on Iranian social worker who said his nonprofit organization raised $38,000 to free prisoners of war captured in Iraq," said Kent, formerly a news reporter in Tehran. "I spoke to the Iraq Embassy and the State Department in Washington, D.C. Nobody ever heard of him.

"Each time I put on my show, I try and teach Iranian people what to look out for in this country. When it's over, if they haven't learned anything, then I don't call it a show."

As a service to its viewers, KSCI is the first U.S. television station to present multilanguage editorials. The station also tries to weed out newscasts that might be foreign government propaganda. And every day, multilingual staff members monitor television programs to make sure they don't violate FCC regulations in a foreign tongue.

During times of crisis, the station has used its studios and satellite dishes as a local news service and interpreter for non-English speaking immigrants. When the Armenian earthquake hit in December, KSCI was on the air in less than 48 hours with a live telethon to raise money for medical supplies. In six hours the station raised more than $3 million.

"I don't think any station in the country can boast the support and appreciation we receive," said KSCI station manager Rosemary Fincher. "You just can't underestimate the people who live here and the ties they have to their homeland."

This special issue was edited by David Fox, Sunday Calendar assistant editor.

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