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KOCE-TV appeal set to begin

November 12, 2005|By By Michael Miller

Case marks third time a court may rule on controversial sale of county's public TV station. The battle over KOCE-TV, Orange County's only public broadcasting station, will continue in 10 days as the case returns to the courtroom.

On Nov. 22, the California Fourth District Court of Appeals, Division Three, in Santa Ana will hear the cases of the Coast Community College District, the KOCE-TV Foundation and the Daystar Television Network, the three parties involved in a fight about the station. Two years ago, the district sold KOCE to the foundation to help pay for educational expenses, and Daystar filed a lawsuit shortly thereafter, claiming it had been slighted in the bidding process.

One trial court decision, one appellate court decision and many long nights later, the parties will begin the next round of the dispute this month. In a case that has confounded even a number of legal experts, the district and foundation are petitioning to maintain the current ownership of KOCE, while Daystar demands that the court award it control of the station.

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"The sale should be voided, and it should be awarded to Daystar because they're the highest responsible bidder," said Cameron Totten, one of Daystar's attorneys. "They can't just not sell it now. That's not how auctions work. They lost their opportunity to reject all bids when they accepted the bid of the foundation."

The Nov. 22 hearing could lead to the third court ruling on KOCE over the past two years -- and whatever the court decides, it's bound to be a messy outcome. The appellate court ordered in June that the district either keep KOCE or sell it to the highest bidder, but the district has already sold the station and spent much of the foundation's $8-million down payment.

If the court orders the district to give KOCE to Daystar, the district will have to acquire the station back from the foundation -- and no one is quite sure how to do that.

"Our lawyers are preparing for every eventuality, whatever that may be," said Mel Rogers, president of the KOCE-TV Foundation.

Rogers also questioned whether any court had the power to overrule the Federal Communications Commission, which awarded the KOCE license to the foundation. He said that if the court ordered a transfer of ownership, the foundation would most likely appeal again.

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