OCN Fire Sale

Photo by Jack GouldWhen nationwide telephone and cable-TV giant Adelphia Communications announced it was ditching the Orange County Newschannel (OCN) three months ago, network execs promised televised Orange County news would continue.

“We remain committed to Orange County news,” said Adelphia's then-director of operations, Bill Rosendahl. As evidence, Rosendahl said, Adelphia would donate some of OCN's state-of-the-art equipment to local nonprofit PBS-affiliate KOCE.

But on Jan. 17, 2002, Pennsylvania-based Adelphia will auction off everything OCN owned but the tapes—studio recording equipment, two new live-remote broadcast trucks and computers.

Just one of those trucks would have revolutionized KOCE's Real Orange news program which, at a half hour Monday through Friday nights, is the sole source of televised county news.

“We asked for one of the news vans,” said Mike Taylor, Real Orangenews director. “We're nowhere with that. Those vans will go for up to $60,000. We could buy the van, but then we wouldn't be able to hire anybody to run it.”

Donating the van to KOCE was never an option, said Adelphia vice president Bob Benson. “We had a number of requests for equipment from for-profit and nonprofit organizations,”said Benson. “To be consistent with our corporate policy on assets, we decided not to donate that equipment.”

But Adelphia did toss one scrap KOCE's way. On Dec. 17, Adelphia agreed to give the PBSstation OCN's videotape library, an archive of county history dating back 11 years. News of that donation made Taylor ecstatic. “We only went on the air in 1997,” he said. “The archives will be a giant resource for us.”

In view of what Adelphia might have done for KOCE, a former OCN reporter said the archive donation is “pretty sorry.”

But the tape archives will preserve some wonderful stuff:

•Second District Supervisor Jim Silva lying to OCN anchor Brooke Robbins about taking Newport Beach money during his 1998 re-election campaign.

•Former Republican Congressman Bob Dornan's March 1, 1998, appearance on OCN's Prime Story, in which he called Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley a “homosexual hit man” and a “scabrous, scandalous, calumny-spreading homosexual tool.” On the same show, Dornan called the Weekly “Satan's instrument . . . an evil paper spreading infected bodily fluids all over this county.”

•OCN reporter Roger Cooper in 1999, singing the praises of the Eastern toll road, saying the road slashing through previously undeveloped canyons was great because drivers “would get to see a part of Orange County few people have ever seen.”

•OCN reporter Sherry Ly's disturbing giddiness during the 2000 OC Republican Party convention, when she said things like “George W. Bush is going to be in the White House, and that's going to mean more money in your pocket!”

•An exhaustive catalog of appearances by scary Children's Hospital of Orange County mascot CHOCO the Clown.

All that is more valuable than footage of floods and mudslides. Those natural disasters happen everywhere, but Dornan, Silva and CHOCO make Orange County something other than a mass-market film starring Jack Black.

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