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[whitespace] KSAR is sticking to its guns over possible channel move

Saratoga--The Wayne's World movie stereotype of strange and ridiculous public community television couldn't be further from the truth, says KSAR program manager Tessa McGoldrick.

With the Saratoga station's award-winning programming, dedication to broadcasting public meetings and an audience who's familiar with the station's location--presently on Channel 6--it and others like the station deserve to be readily seen by the community, she says.

Now, the station might be in a fight for its life over that very issue--where it's located on the dial, which in turn determines who sees it.

Last week, San Jose's KICU said it wanted to exercise its "must carry" rights with TCI cable, and laid claim to Channel 6 without saying when it wanted to take over the channel.

Under federal law, the KICU has maintained, TCI is required to carry stations like KICU wherever the station wants. KICU wants Channel 6 in the Bay Area.

KSAR and three other local community channels in Los Gatos, Mountain View and Milpitas who are also presently aired on cable Channel 6 only in their respective communities, beg to differ.

In KSAR's case, which is unique among the group, its franchise contract made with cable operators years ago allows it to be on Channel 6 indefinitely, the station's operators say.

McGoldrick says the station's beef isn't with KICU, but with TCI cable, which she says hasn't responded to requests for specific information pertaining to what is allowed under the "must carry" clause in federal communications laws.

"Our lawyers have said it's not a 'must carry' issue," she says. "We haven't received any information on how they plan to resolve this. They're interpreting it differently than we are."

KSAR board member and City Councilmember John Mehaffey says a line has been drawn in the sand, and KSAR won't back down to being moved.

On the other hand, KSAR doesn't have the money to mount a big legal campaign if board members feel it's needed.

"Our position is that we've been at Channel 6, producing quality programs which we've won awards for. There's no reason for us to move, and 36 wants to be low on the channels for the same reason we want to be," he says.

Channel 6 is an attractive place in local television because channel surfers often go by it when flipping past the networks. Putting the station on another channel, KSAR officials say, would mean less of an audience from channel surfers and would confuse those who associate the channel with its location.

If worse comes to worse, however, KSAR's officials want assurances that it'll be moved to a lower-numbered channel, perhaps in the teens, and won't ever be moved again--something they thought would never happen in the first place. Additionally, it wants some sort of advertising done free, so people will know where it's been moved to.

KSAR has been on Channel 6 for 10 years, and so far, no new deals have been made on what will happen next. KSAR is still awaiting clarification from TCI, McGoldrick says.
Steve Enders

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