Southern California’s PBS TV outlet KOCE wants to make sure the Asian-language community knows it had nothing to do with the format shift of KSCI Channel 18 over the weekend from Asian-language local shows to English-language infomercials.
The multi-language Asian community lost a major TV voice in Los Angeles when economic challenges combined with high-tech changes to end more than 30 years of local programming on KSCI on Saturday.
LA18 canceled all of its programs in Chinese, Filipino, Spanish and Armenian, and severely cut back on Korean programming, the station’s general manager said. Infomercials in English have primarily replaced the canceled programs.
The changes started to be implemented Saturday and will continue through late this year or early 2018, said the station’s general manager, Dennis Davis. He declined to offer any one specific reason for the format shift. The station has been through financial hardships in recent years and filed for bankruptcy in 2012 while laying off several dozen workers.
At the same time, the federal auction of parts of TV stations’ channels to be reused for cell phone providers raised significant funds but reduced airwave availability.
“The thing we hate to lose is we do produce local programs for the Filipinos, Koreans and Chinese and unfortunately we won’t be doing that any longer,” Davis told City News Service.
KSCI owners were able to raise millions of dollars in a complex series of moves to give up some of its TV airwave spectrum in a nationwide FCC auction of TV signals, primarily for new use by cell phone providers.
KSCI worked with the Los Angeles public broadcasting station, KOCE, to develop a business agreement.
The two stations ended up in a channel-sharing agreement, but KOCE officials said that agreement had nothing to do with the format changes decided upon solely by KSCI owners.
“PBS SoCal KOCE is not taking over KSCI’s broadcast channels,” said Jennifer Vides, vice president of marketing and communications for the station.
“KSCI recently sold two-thirds of its broadcast spectrum to the FCC as a part of FCC Broadcast Incentive Auction in which broadcasters were able to sell all or part of their broadcast spectrum back to the FCC. KSCI was able to participate in the auction and retain a TV broadcast license through a channel- sharing agreement with PBS SoCal (KOCE) in which KSCI retained one-third of the two stations’ combined broadcast spectrum and earned two-thirds of the revenue, or $89 million. PBS SoCal retained two-thirds of the spectrum and earned $49 million.
Each station has full control over its remaining broadcast spectrum and channels. That includes all business decisions and editorial control. KSCI previously had the capacity to broadcast 12 channels, and now has the capacity to operate three, which has resulted in the change in programming at KSCI.
PBS SoCal is not involved in any of these decisions at KSCI. PBS SoCal KOCE, the flagship PBS station for Greater Los Angeles and Southern California, continues our strong commitment to serving Southern California and advancing our PBS mission.”
At the same time, she said, PBS SoCal is “a public media organization, (and) we believe it is important for diverse audiences to have access to news and information. We are also committed to ensuring that accurate facts and information are provided to our community about important news and actions that affect them, such as is the case with KSCI’s decisions.”
As of 2015, Los Angeles County was home to 1,463,000 Asians, more than any county in the nation, according to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report, which also found that Asians are the fastest growing racial group in the nation.
LA18 was founded in 1977 and had broadcast on 12 digital channels in five languages — Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Spanish and Armenian. It aired a mix of its own programs and shows produced in other countries.
Starting Saturday, the station’s main channel, 18.1, ceased all Asian- language programming except for broadcasts in Korean from 8 to 11 p.m. produced by Seoul Broadcasting Systems out of Korea.
The station’s other channels continued airing their normal programming, but that programming will be cut back over the next year from 12 channels to five and eventually only feature Korean programming produced by international providers, according to KSCI management.
Popular programs produced by LA18 being canceled included “Tsou LA,” a program aimed at introducing Chinese speakers to Los Angeles, and “Kababayan Today,” a Filipino-language talk show.
The station’s two local news shows in Chinese and Korean also ending Saturday, in addition to its Chinese talk show “Juliett,” although Dennis said SBS planned to continue to produce its own local news program in Korean.
Davis said he has been in talks with other stations interested in continuing to produce some of the local shows, including “Kababayan Today,” which bills itself as the only Filipino language talk show produced in North America.
“We used to be an Asian language station for 30 to 40 years and we are changing our format now. We will still have a little Korean though,” Davis said.
The changes at KSCI are coming while the Asian population in Los Angeles County continues to grow. The Greater L.A. area contains the largest number of ethnic Koreans living outside of Korea and the largest number of ethnic Filipinos living outside of the Philippines.
—City News Service
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