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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

What Does KOCE Sale Mean for Quality TV?

August 10, 2003

Re "Religious Networks Bidding for KOCE," July 26:

Will KOCE-TV Channel 50 stop broadcasting top-rated shows like "Sesame Street," "Barney & Friends" and "Arthur"? What about "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer," "Real Orange," and the essential educational programs like telecourses that celebrate the Coast Community College District's legacy of community involvement?

Religious broadcasters are among those interested in bidding for the county's only public-TV station. It appears that these big-money-based televangelists are forming innocuously friendly groups like Community Television Educators of Orange County and Community Educational Television Inc.

Don't be fooled. It's about money and placidity spawning a false sense of security with the community and educators. What kind of precedent would this set for televangelists nationwide? And in a community of 3 million people, we somberly risk losing our local PBS station.

The Coast Community College District should also use the public uproar against excessive media consolidation as guidance in its decision to sell its license. Partnering with another PBS station would be as damaging as selling to televangelists. Our county's unique identify would be further doomed by media controlled by an outside giant.

Last November's Measure C bond provided hundreds of millions of dollars in facility improvements and campus construction projects for the Coast Community College District. But none of the funds were made available for the $3-million infrastructure improvement needed to meet the FCC-mandated conversion to digital. Instead, the KOCE-TV Foundation assumed the federal obligation to fund the digital project.

Digital broadcast rights are invaluable. To consider selling KOCE to another PBS station or a televangelist that would control programming and reap the rewards of the digital infrastructure investment is irrational and not in the best interest of the public.

What can the citizens of Orange County do? I am urging people to demand that five community college district trustees not cast aside KOCE. Any revenue generated from the sale would quickly be absorbed and our county would be left with nothing to show for it. Nothing to show, not even "Sesame Street."

Mitch Goldstone

Irvine

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KOCE is worried that education will go down the tubes once a religious group buys the station. History says otherwise. The idea of education for everybody had its roots in the Reformation. Everyone needed to learn to read so they could read the Bible in their own language. The major educational centers in the U.S. -- Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, New York University, Northwestern University and others -- had Christian roots.

Through the translation of the world's languages by Christian missionaries, we obtained deep understanding of the world's peoples and their cultures -- and promoted worldwide literacy. KOCE need not worry that its educational aims will be thwarted by religious broadcasters. It just needs to broaden its scope of education.

Steve Husting

Fountain Valley

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I am a classroom teacher in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. It seems everyone I talk to agrees with the intrinsic value of keeping KOCE, our local educational PBS station. They want the programs that are offered and they heartily support a local educational station. However, do most people know of the vision of KOCE's Educational Services Department and why this is value unfolding?

KOCE has done for Orange County what no one else would. Under the directorship of Hall Davidson, KOCE's educational services department has embraced such innovative programs as Schoolhouse Video (www.schoolhousevideo.org), a program that all other media groups rejected. Schoolhouse Video broadcasts 90-second videos on KOCE created by students and teachers in elementary and high school classrooms around Orange County. Not only do the students feel empowered by getting their work broadcast, our schools are allowed a voice and the public gets a rare look into our schools and the minds of our students and teachers.

Schoolhouse Video has been a huge success and it's because of the unique vision of KOCE that this program has become a reality. We need to keep our Orange County PBS station and we need to show our support physically and financially.

Janet English

Lake Forest

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