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Students Channel Interests Into TV

March 21, 1994|GLEN JUSTICE

The television studios at Beverly Hills High School rarely sit idle.

For 20 years, students have produced programming telecast on local cable channels. Newscasts, music reviews, health shows and educational programming are all part of the package offered five days a week to the 35,000 subscribers of the Century Cable System.

"I think you are going to see more of this because the equipment is getting cheaper and smaller and there is more access to it," said Dave Stiles, director of media services at Beverly Hills High. "We almost started too early. When we started, we had Ed Sullivan-type, 60-pound cameras."

Few school TV labs have the long history of funding and school support that KBEV has enjoyed. But similar facilities are cropping up in high schools throughout Southern California, even as school newspapers publish less frequently.

Palisades High School will soon produce a TV version of the school newspaper Tideline and has plans for a closed-circuit radio broadcast by the summer. Students at Van Nuys High School produce two news shows a week for a class and hope to begin telecasting campuswide soon via closed circuit. And Hamilton High School in West Los Angeles will open a $350,000 multimedia communications center in the fall, in which students will produce a documentary to be shown on local cable channels.

Although nobody expects student television to eclipse campus newspapers altogether, some teachers say students find it more accessible.

"Kids don't read that much, but they do watch TV," said Van Nuys teacher Lonny Scharf.

Pam Bruns, director of the media center at Palisades High, said TV has added a new component to a journalism program that was already thriving.

"It's the way kids get their news," she said. "It's the way more and more of the population gets its news, and I don't think that's necessarily good. I think we need print and broadcast together. We try to present that in what we're doing here."

Most TV lab teachers said they need more money and equipment, describing their programs as patchwork efforts that often ride on the backs of a few dedicated students and aides. Still more rely solely on the expertise of one teacher or adviser.

But they add that these facilities allow students to receive a great deal of training while trying to keep their viewers entertained, if not informed.

"Public access (channels) exposed us to the largest number of people," Bruns said. "We didn't promote it at all. So we were surprised at how many viewers found it themselves. We feel it's the best avenue. If the programs are good, we'll get a regular slot and develop a viewership."

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