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Santa Clarita Tunes In to Cable Access : Television: Now virtually unknown, the fledgling channel is expected to blossom early next year.

August 30, 1993|DOUGLAS ALGER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA CLARITA — From the homemade studio off their Canyon Country living room, youngsters Priscilla and Adam Waldrop welcome you into their evangelical telecast with readings from the Bible.

Their readings are followed by a music video of parents Steven and Susan touting the virtues of Jesus Christ.

The scene makes "Leave It To Beaver" look downright sinful and can be found weekly on Channel 16 in Canyon Country and Channel 17 in Saugus, Valencia and Newhall.

Cable access--a forum allowing residents to show anything on their community's televisions they want to as long as it isn't illegal, obscene or an advertisement--is coming to Santa Clarita.

Now offered only two hours a day--and virtually unknown to many residents--Santa Clarita's fledgling cable-access channel is expected to blossom with the start of 1994.

Typical cable-access programs range from the mundane to the bizarre. The fictional "Wayne's World" was created on the public-access premise. When Santa Clarita officials checked what other channels were broadcasting, they encountered a wide range of shows, consisting mostly of the traditional political forums, educational talk shows and instructional programs.

While discussions continued earlier this year over what should, could or would appear on the channel, Santa Clarita's Waldrop family steadily produced a conservative religious program out of their Canyon Country home. They have now been doing so for nearly a year.

"It's a chance for us to reach people we never meet," said Susan Waldrop, who along with husband Steven creates their two half-hour shows broadcast weekly on Santa Clarita's cable-access channel.

The first "Waldrop Family" program was on Channel 53 in Hemet two years ago. With their show now broadcast on 10 public-access stations in cities including Palmdale, Simi Valley, Anaheim and Phoenix, the Waldrops estimate their potential audience is more than 2 million viewers.

Not bad for a program videotaped with a single camera in a homemade studio off the Waldrop's living room. The format usually includes Bible readings by Priscilla, 12, and Adam, 11; singing of self-penned hymns by the family and an interview with local officials ranging from church pastors to a City Council member.

Cable access was discussed for months in public hearings before the City Council on April 27 adopted the less restrictive of two formats suggested for the channel, offering few limitations on programming beyond barring the illegal or obscene. Many residents, even strong supporters of public-access television, are unaware that cable access is available now for those who have broadcast-quality videotapes.

Although cable access is common throughout California, some residents feared racist groups or pornographers would use the Santa Clarita channels if careful editorial control was not exercised.

Under franchise agreements with Los Angeles County that Santa Clarita took over when it incorporated in December, 1989, the Santa Clarita Valley's cable firms--ATC Cablevision and King Videocable--will provide full-time public-access channels for the first time.

The two companies are negotiating lease agreements for a public production studio that would allow residents to create their own television programs. As the amount of programming grows, the companies have agreed to provide up to six channels for public-access shows.

"We hope that by the end of (this) month we'll have a management agreement, a lease agreement and have a director on board," said Scott Binder, general manager of ATC Cablevision.

The studio and expanded channels are scheduled to be fully operational by January.

Residents may submit tapes to either of Santa Clarita's cable firms for broadcast. Programs will be reviewed by the director who will decide when they will be broadcast. Residents can also sign up for four to six hours of training to use the studio to create their own programming.

As with all public-access productions, the "Waldrop Family" show contains no nudity or vulgarity.

"It's like 1950s television," said Steven Waldrop.

The Waldrops believe that controversial shows are unlikely because there is no opportunity for creators to make money on the free channel.

In addition to the "Waldrop Family," other programs now broadcast in Santa Clarita include shows on New Age music and art, guitar lessons, helping people recover from grief and a commentary program that encourages viewers to fax in their views to the host.

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