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Orange County

Residents Back KOCE Sale to Group Keeping PBS Link

About 75% support such a sale at a below-market price, a Cal State Fullerton survey shows.

September 24, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

About three-quarters of Orange County residents support selling KOCE-TV Channel 50 to a group that will preserve it as a PBS outlet, even though its bid is less than half of what several Christian broadcasters have offered, according to a poll by Cal State Fullerton's Center for Public Policy and the Orange County Business Council.

The poll, released Tuesday, found that even regular watchers of Christian programming support the sale to the PBS group, by 53% to 47% among those who had an opinion.

Phillip Gianos, a Cal State Fullerton political science professor who worked on the poll, said he was surprised by the support the PBS choice received.

"In some sense people may look at it as almost a public utility, a public service," he said.

Orange County's only public TV station, KOCE is owned by the Coast Community College District, which includes Golden West, Orange Coast and Coastline colleges. District trustees may decide Oct. 15 which of five bids to accept. The lowest bid came from a partnership between KCET-TV Channel 28, the PBS station in Los Angeles, and the KOCE Foundation, which raises money for the station. It is the only offer under which the station would remain with PBS. The group offered $10 million, with $1 million down.

Four televangelist organizations have made higher offers. The highest is LeSEA Broadcasting Corp. of Indiana, which has offered $10 million down, $25 million over time and 20% of the station's earnings.

Trinity Broadcasting Network of Costa Mesa and Daystar Television Network of Dallas, the nation's largest Christian broadcasters, each have offered $25 million in cash.

The fifth bidder is Almavision Hispanic Network, a Spanish-language Christian broadcaster, which has offered $15 million to $25 million.

Pollsters contacted 506 Orange County residents by telephone between Aug. 26 and Sept. 10. The poll found that 76% of respondents favored keeping KOCE affiliated with PBS, 16% preferred that it be sold to the highest bidder, and 8% had no opinion or declined to answer. The margin of error was 4.45%.

Milton Gordon, president of Cal State Fullerton, and Stan Oftelie, president and CEO of the business council, have said they support selling the TV station to the foundation/KCET group.

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