OCEANSIDE — Its signal has been coursing through Oceanside for more than 30 years, bringing original programming and local government access into people’s homes and TVs.
KOCT is Oceanside’s nonprofit public, educational and government (PEG) access channel.
Tom Reeser, KOCT’s executive director, started with the station back in 1987 as a video production technician. He said he was fortunate to join the station when the cable industry was just young.
Since then, he’s seen staffing levels grow and then shrink, changes in broadcast equipment and technology and programming.
In the late 2000s the station was producing 340 unique programs a year, Reeser said. “We were able to do a lot and I think became an integral part of the community knowing that whether it was elections or sports, that you could watch it on KOCT,” he said.
Now, he works with an operating budget of $560,000 a year, with funding coming from fundraising efforts, grants, the city, production projects and underwriters (of which The Coast News is one).
He admits keeping up that integral role in the community has become more challenging since the recession and budget cuts they’ve had to sustain.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Reeser said of the ups and downs he’s witnessed at the station, and also of the revolutionary changes in media.
According to a research study done this year in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, many of the “PEG channels across America have been cut back or shut down due to budget cuts.”
“I think,” Reeser said, “with the loss of large metropolitan newspapers across the globe, the role of documenting local government…is more important than ever.”
Reeser said he’s proud that KOCT is the only TV station, including commercial, that covers election coverage in North County.
The station has made strides to increase their Internet presence due to the changing habits in the way people receive their news.
The studio has produced documentaries and news briefs, which can now be accessed online, along with a majority of its original programs.
On June 15 from 2 to 3 p.m., KOCT will open its doors up to the public to give its viewers a chance to tour the studio, ask questions, offer up programming suggestions and get a behind-the-scenes look at a taping of “Oceanside Spectrum,” which has been running for 15 years.
“Having been in the community for close to 30 years, people are more than happy to share with me the events they think are important,” Reeser said.
KOCT has also become a veritable training ground for young people wanting to join the media workforce.
“Media is just such a competitive business and we give people a chance to get real world experience that they couldn’t get anywhere else,” Reeser said.
Buoyed by a core staff of three full-time employees, including Reeser, five part-time workers, interns and a volunteer Board of Directors, Reeser envisions a stronger community station in the years to come, he said.
“I think we both desire to, and need to, cover more of North County events,” Reeser said. “We’re filling a real big gap in North County coverage of community events, and I believe that we need to expand our footprint in order to survive.”
Reeser said the station will be turning to a state franchise in 2017, which will provide them funding that won’t come out of Oceanside’s general fund. The move, he said, would also increase their independence, which, he said, has been one of their strengths.
KOCT can be seen on Cox Communication channels 18 and 19 and AT&T in Oceanside, or online at KOCT.org.