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KBDI's Colorado Focus Shines

Release Date: 12/16/04
Author: Dusty Saunders

The hotly contested presidential-year election ended Nov. 2. But 17 days later, KBDI-Channel 12 was still doing what it does best: putting a focus on individuals and issues that affect Colorado.

On Nov. 19, Aaron Harber's Friday night series featured prominent Democratic and Republican House members discussing the surprising Democratic victory on the state level.

The program, which didn't get much of a blip on the audience radar screen, provided a graphic example of the importance of Channel 12.

The station is more than a public TV outlet. It's a community asset.

Programs such as Harber's rarely win Emmys or other hardware for a station.

So I'll designate a special award: Channel 12 deserves recognition as the Denver TV Station of the Year.

During the 2004 campaign, Channel 12, under the umbrella title of Colorado Decides 2004, aired more than 100 hours of local programming about major ballot issues and candidates.

And that figure does not include numerous debates aired in conjunction with News 4 and the Rocky Mountain News.

But election-year coverage remains only one aspect of the Channel 12 schedule.

Scan the TV listings and you'll find a dozen weekly 30-minute or hourlong local programs covering everything from government to sports with a variety of perspectives.

Nowhere else will you find a series dealing with issues in Colorado's gay community. (Colorado Outspoken 11 p.m. Sunday).

The series with the highest profile remains Colorado Inside Out (8 p.m. Friday), a taped half-hour hosted by KHOW's Peter Boyles and featuring a sometimes rowdy media roundtable.

It's a show with personality, particularly when David Kopel and Dani Newsum zing one another.

Boyles also anchors Colorado Inside Out Live (7 p.m. Wednesday), an hour of one-on-one interviews or panel discussions, with calls from viewers.

Jon Caldara, head of the Independence Institute, shares conservative views with guests on Independent Thinking, (8:30 p.m. Friday) and you can get Reggie Rivers' liberal perspective on Drawing the Line (8 p.m. Wednesday).

Two Hispanic-themed shows air weekly: Latin View (9:30 p.m. Saturday) and Hispanos Americanos (1:30 p.m. Sunday).

And The Sports Zone (9:30 p.m. Tuesday) has answered that burning question: Does Denver really need another sports talk show?

Yes. Hosted by Les Shapiro, and regularly featuring Dave Krieger of the News, Jim Armstrong of The Denver Post and Charles Johnson of KOA-AM (850), the half-hour provides intelligent opinion without hometown cheerleading.

These and other series are put together on an annual budget of under $3 million - a quarter of the budget for KRMA-Channel 6.

Station officials, headed by President Wick Rowland, have developed a four-pronged financing style also being used by other secondary public television stations who have learned to live in the shadow of larger mainstream PBS outlets. (Roland prefers the term "differential" rather than secondary.)

Series like Colorado Inside Out and Drawing the Line are produced by the station, funded from its operating budget.

Latin View, The Sports Zone and several others, while produced by the station, are supported by outside contributions.

Programs including Independent Thinking and Aaron Harber's show are supported financially by outside sources who provide co-producers teaming with the Channel 12 crew.

Finally, there are shows, including Colorado Outspoken, that are produced and funded externally.

Some public TV outlets object to this type of operation, saying stations lose editorial control.

Rowland, former head of the University of Colorado's School of Journalism, disagrees, saying KBDI has "ultimate control" while offering local programs and diverse opinions.

While Channel 12 plans to expand national, global and local services in the digital era, Rowland downplays the value of "prettier pictures" - perhaps a veiled reference to rival Channel 6 and its HDTV aspirations.

"Channel 12's viewers expect more," Rowland says. "While they expect us to develop the multicasting aspect of digital TV, they want us to offer more of the product we're already providing in analog."

In other words, the viewing of issues is of more importance than the viewing of the picture.

Rowland is not completely satisfied with the station's local schedule.

"What's missing in Denver television is a regularly scheduled early evening news show that explores, in-depth, what is happening in the local political, legislative and business worlds. . . . We'd like to fill that void."

Dusty Saunders is the broadcasting critic for the Rocky Mountain News. This column is reprinted courtesy of the Rocky Mountain News.

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