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[whitespace] KSAR pondering a jump into new programming waters

Saratoga--Money permitting, Saratoga's community-access cable station will be spicing up its programming in the near future.

KSAR-15 is looking into a 13-movie classic film festival for the fall and new equipment that would allow the station to improve the quality of its taped shows and public bulletin board displays between shows.

New KSAR Director Carolyn De Los Santos also wants to get the channel's 6,000 Saratoga viewers to put down their remotes and come into the station to produce some homegrown shows of their own.

"The opportunities have been here in the past, but I don't believe that some residents actually know there's a community access station here," said De Los Santos, 37, who came to KSAR in May with a commercial television and film background. "I'd like to see an overbooked schedule here, and I'd like to raise the quality of production."

Currently, a handful of shows are produced in KSAR's studios at West Valley College, including the popular children's book show "Reading Room," hosted by local teacher Judith Lawrenson. The station also feeds live broadcasts of city council and planning commission meetings. Adding in community TV shows from other stations, KSAR runs about 15 hours of programming a week.

De Los Santos wants to broaden the number of locally produced shows in part by training Saratogans to run the controls and the cameras in KSAR's studios. She's planning to bring in colleagues from a San Francisco-based production company to do Saturday technical seminars on creating studio and field shows.

Budget constraints will challenge De Los Santos and KSAR's board of directors as they try to increase the quality and depth of programming.

The new director says she can shift the station's recording and editing system from VHS tape to digital-based technology for around $15,000. Station board member Murray Dolmatch estimates that buying the rights to classics such as A Farewell to Arms and One Eyed Jacks, which will be broadcast as part of the film festival, will cost $25,000. The station's annual budget hovers just under $200,000. The city of Saratoga contributes about $70,000 per year.

That budget remains on firm footing in the near term due to a monetary settlement given to the city last year by AT&T. The media giant bumped KSAR from its Channel 6 spot to make room for AT&T's San Jose station KICU.

The San Jose station wanted the more desirable location to match its channel spot in other Bay Area cities. AT&T said that its original agreement with Saratoga to give KSAR the Channel 6 slot allowed it to move that station to Channel 15.

Saratoga's legal counsel argued that under federal regulations, KSAR had a right to remain at Channel 6. AT&T eventually agreed to compensate the city with $95,000 for KSAR's move to Channel 15.

But not all of that money went to KSAR, and De Los Santos says the station is more than half way through the funds the station did get.

Station management is looking to bring in business and private sponsors to fund future improvements. As a nonprofit station, it does not run commercials, but it would acknowledge sponsors on the air, as PBS and National Public Radio do.

The station's nonprofit status also allows it to apply for grant money, but first it must go through a full financial audit. Currently, De Los Santos is searching for an accountant to conduct the audit for free.

"It's really a poverty operation," said Dolmatch, "But it shouldn't be."
Oakley Brooks

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