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Pol position:KOCE unifies county and provides sense of community

September 03, 2007|By Mel Rogers

Many people are surprised when I tell them KOCE-TV, Orange County’s PBS station, has grown so much it is now the sixth most-watched PBS station in America. That’s a fun statistic to share, but not an especially important one.

A local public television station’s value does not end nor even begin with its popular, highly-viewed PBS programs such as NOVA, Antiques Roadshow or Sesame Street. We are more than just a giant VCR that records and plays back spectacular national shows. Our true value is being a gathering place where local people can appear in front of lights and cameras and discuss local issues.

We are also a local educational institution providing on-air and online instructional video content for K-12 students. And most importantly, we are the local entity with the greatest potential for unifying our disparate Orange County into a cohesive, functional community.

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Despite our Orange County obsession, KOCE-TV actually broadcasts throughout Southern California, from Riverside to Ventura Counties and all through Los Angeles — 60% of our viewers, in fact, are outside of Orange County. But our location in Huntington Beach gives us the unique perspective of Orange County, and its here that we focus our local programming efforts.

When I arrived here after years of working in the Salt Lake City market, I could see immediately that the far-flung, 3-million-person community that is Orange County needed a unifying catalyst. KOCE’s first catalytic effort began exactly 10 years ago with the launch of Real Orange, the only nightly news program about Orange County. It is viewed by 120,000 people in Orange County on any given day — enough people to fill Angel Stadium nearly three times over.

A few weeks ago, Real Orange viewers saw a special KOCE-TV production with live studio audience about the future plans for the perpetually congested 91 Freeway — a major concern for Orange and Riverside County commuters and businesses.

Just last week, a special edition of Real Orange examined the growing number of people in Orange County who find themselves walking the financial tightrope — that imaginary line separating comfort zone from crisis mode.

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