In trying to make themselves into another KCET (with possibly the same long-term prospects), Orange County’s PBS SoCal public TV channel is abandoning its viewers and the ties it long-developed here when it was the lonely OC-focused, Huntington Beach-based KOCE, UHF Channel 50. Per the union-funded Voice of OC via the OC Business Journal: Local PBS Cancels ‘Real Orange,’ OC’s Main TV News Show at year-end.
Real Orange was useful, and entirely OC-centric. It never had a lot of budget for production or news gathering, but hosts Ed Arnold and Ann Pulice were OC residents and seemed to have a genuine interest in the County — and they weren’t preening for network jobs. A few years ago, KOCE fought off an assault by a local religious broadcaster to acquire its license. Some very questionable tactics were used as we recall, but the station remained “ours”, did what it could with local broadcasts, but primarily continued as a PBS outlet for their national programming and left-leaning news/commentary.
Real Orange thankfully never devolved to the nonsense and triviality that the LA-based network and independent 10 and 11pm TV new programs reached — it was an honest effort at a daily update of events in Orange County. They once effectively teamed with the Register, and recently the Voice of OC (which runs circles around the Register on local political and government coverage despite their close ties to the OCEA). Their monthly panel program on local politics that featured Irvine’s Chris Mears, UCI’s Mark Petracca, the OCBJ’s Rick Reiff and the Lincoln Club’s Michael Capaldi was spirited and generally excellent.
When LA’s KCET stepped on their dick and cheaped out of their PBS relationship a few years ago, KOCE was left with the ‘franchise’ for southern California and the egos took over. They moved out of their tiny Golden West College quarters in HB and grabbed some expensive space in Costa Mesa. They brought in an east coast management and production crowd who knew better than these Orange County rubes, and then proceeded to get more liberal than KOCE already, kind of, was (despite the presence of OC GOP Chairmuffin Jo Ellen Allen on their Board). They abhorred the Republican character they believed the County still held, and ignored the changing culture and political migration that’s occurred here beginning around the time that former Republican Loretta Sanchez questionably beat B-1 Bob Dornan for Congress and Curt Pringle was hiring poll guards.
But when Reiff’s weekly SoCal Insider program transitioned from an OC-focus to a broader LA-focus last year — which made it much less interesting and valuable — it wasn’t hard to see the direction the station was taking. It’s pretty obvious that PBS SoCal now sees themselves as the Savior of Public Broadcasting in southern California, so to hell with Orange County, its roots and especially the DONORS it requires to stay in business. Their failings will be exaggerated as they creep towards broke, third-world LA with their non-Spanish programming and then become a mortal problem when the Conservatives take control in DC and cut funding for PBS all together. We’ll miss Real Orange, their mature, professional hosts and particularly the great David Lazar who does such carefully balanced analytical work with a limited budget. [We also note that Pringle’s butt boy and publicist won’t miss the program, obviously as they won’t say anything nice about his bosses in Anaheim.]
So what’s a media-poor County to do? We had an idea earlier this year that the Register’s new owners might WAKE UP and see an opportunity right under their corporate nose: OCN Again?
The Register’s expansion of their print empire doesn’t seem to be working out very well — they’re not making enough money to buy the LA Times (neither are the Koch brothers interested and they could have saved it). Freedom’s intention to acquire the Inland Empire’s Press-Enterprise may also be running into difficulty.
With PBS SoCal giving its donor base the finger, killing local programming and gradually slinking away from once-loyal Orange County to show biz- and media-dominated Los Angeles, perhaps Register-owner Aaron Kushner might see the potential to step in to use his reconstituted news and editorial operation and start getting out of the dying newspaper business by expanding into the growing and potentially more profitable electric media business.
If it works, Aaron, you heard it here first.