A look behind the lights of OC Insight

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In the basement below the Pollak Library lives an entire world unknown to most students. Sound boards and studio lights come to life, while microphone checks and face makeup is applied. Cues from producers and students with ear pieces scurry around the television and production studio, home to Cal State Fullerton’s own television program, OC Insight.

OC Insight is a public-affairs television program that is shot and produced on campus, and airs on KCET Orange, the digital channel subset of KCET Los Angeles, and affiliate of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

During each episode, Roger Cooper hosts the program which features a panel of experts who discuss important topics and their effects on Orange County.

The program is part of a relationship that CSUF established three years ago with KCET, where the university helps the renowned station by producing localized programs. In return, the partnership provides educational academic experiences for CSUF broadcast students, to showcase significant roles in broadcast media.

Brent Foster, assistant professor of Communications and producer of OC Insight has played a vital role in the creation of the 30-minute program.

“You’re actually talking to the creator,” Foster said. “I don’t take full credit for it all, but there was a nucleus of us that sparked and generated the program.”

OC Insight focuses on issues relevant to Orange County and the university. A program development committee made up of members of the Public Affairs division of the university, along with professor Foster, brainstorm topics important to Orange County and CSUF.

“When there’s an initiative going on on campus that impacts Orange County or Southern California in general, we pursue those interests first, but it’s not always a campus related topic,” Foster said.

CSUF broadcast students have struck gold with the opportunity to work alongside seasoned professionals. One of OC Insight’s directors, Greg Schowengerdt has been in the industry for over 20 years and has directed projects such as the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS.

“I really like the students’ energy. In television business, people get jaded fast and get a little cranky. When you’re young and you always see those cranky people you think, I’ll never be like that. Then sure enough, you’re thinking, why is this running so long, and when is lunch? You get cranky yourself, and it’s really nice to be with students who are practicing and happy to be here,” Schowengerdt said. “I was working with camera operators who are students, and they were trying really hard and practicing and delivering. It’s really nice to work with young people who really care.”

OC Insight is produced by faculty, staff, outside vendors, professionals from KCET and students.

“I’ve been around a lot of different productions so I’m able to give the students some guidance and information as to how to break into the business,” said taping engineer, Ken Meza.

“It’s quite an orchestration that comes together to form one team, from all walks. You don’t find that very often on a college campus,” Foster said. “It’s a mentoring opportunity so faculty can work and learn, and so students can see that the faculty have merits and are able to build networks.”

The growing program is contracted to produce 12 episodes a year. The taping is divided into six episodes per semester, when the university is able to produce a significant amount of people to run the show. Production occurs during the summer.

With KCET Los Angeles’ recent split from PBS, announced Oct. 8., the future of OC Insight could be affected in a positive way. The program may be allotted more airtime because KCET will need additional content to take the place of lost PBS programming. The split is scheduled for Jan. 1.

The cause of the dispute stems from a disagreement over paying an annual $7 million programming fee to broadcast shows such as PBS News Hour, Antiques Roadshow, Sesame Street and others.

According to the Los Angeles Times, due to past fundraising success, KCET’s PBS membership dues were raised and fixed at a price that the station could no longer afford to meet. None of the proposed alternatives by KCET, including lower dues, were accepted by PBS.

Al Jerome, President of KCET, told The Associated Press that after four decades as the West Coast flagship PBS station, this is not a decision they made lightly.

“At issue were KCET’s repeated requests that it be allowed to operate as a PBS member station without abiding by PBS policies and paying the corresponding dues,” PBS told the Associated Press.

In a statement released by KCET, the station’s exit from PBS will make it the largest independent public television station in the US.

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