The birth of a station
By Alice Feinstein
The countdown has started. KSKN, Spokane’s newest television station, is about to be born.
Like the birth of a child, the birth of a television station is not without its complications and labor pains, but with proper planning and prenatal care the process can go smoothly enough.
Mid-wife to the birthing of KSKN is principal owner and station manager Lee Schulman. With 37 years of television management experience behind him in places like Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles, Schulman has assisted at the birth of television stations before. But this time it’s different. This time he’s the father, and, he said KSKN represents “the greatest challenge I’ve ever had in my life.”
Actually, “general” might be a better description for Schulman. He led a brief tour of the station’s spanking new facilities at E4022 Broadway with all the intensity of a military leader inspecting the field of battle.
Silent for the most part, the whole station facility smells like a new car. Manufacturers’ labels still hang from chairs that have never been sat in. A secretary was busy unpacking dozens of telephones.
Partitions mark off empty offices in a modular arrangement that will permit future expansion of each department. He’s already allowing for escalation – and the station’s first ratings battles have yet to be fought.
Camera and switching equipment wait silently in crates for the touch that will bring them to life. A satellite dish sits outside just waiting to turn its sensitive ears to the heavens. A landing pad for helicopters awaits the first touchdown of news crews flying in late-breaking items.
The parking lot is empty of the employees’ vehicles that will eventually pack it. The employees, for the most part, have not yet been hired.
There is a sense of expectancy in the air, however. A “calm before the storm,” as Schulman termed it. It is clearly a place where big plans have been made.
One of the biggest planning endeavors has been for the news department.
Schulman pointed out spaces for news reporters and editors – big spaces.
The set-up for producing KSKN’s news is entirely based on a half-inch video tape system which allows for greater flexibility and quality and is “the latest quantum leap forward” in television news, Schulman said.
Until recently, all stations used one-inch tape, he said, adding, “We are the first station in the United States to be committed to a total half-inch operation,” he said.
“This completes the reason I think this station is the leader in the country,” Schulman said, hoisting a remarkably light-weight and compact television camera to his shoulder. “The quality that comes out of this camera is as fine as has ever been developed.”
Like a politician waiting for just the right time and place to announce his candidacy, Schulman gives forth very little information about his planned news programming.
Within six months, Schulman asserted, KSKN will be running via satellite a national newscast that will originate in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles.
Beyond that, Schulman had little to say about what to expect from KSKN’s news effort.
“I’d prefer not to say,” he said, adding with a smile, “It’s going to be different.”
Just as two newspapers in one city – say the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune – can have different content and news personalities, television stations’ news presentation can be different, he said.
For some time now, word has it in the local television industry that television news competition is heating up here. Could KSKN’s appearance on the scene have anything to do with that?
“I really see our entrance into Spokane as a major step in the development at all the stations,” Schulman said, adding that when stations compete it is the viewer, ultimately, who benefits.
The station’s other offerings will consist of “an across-the-board entertainment and information program schedule” to include syndicated drama and comedy programming, national and local sporting events, entertainment and information shows originating in the Inland Empire (“We are not going to just do things in the studio.”) and satellite programming.
Schulman is not ready to announce any of the other programs either, but some announcements should be forthcoming within the week.
Who are these people who have invested so heavily in bringing a new television station to Spokane?
Schulman is not alone. He is general partners with Arnold Mills, who manages professional theatrical talent, including vocalist Vikki Carr.
Other principal owners of KSKN include Carr; Morrie Alhadeff, owner of Seattle’s Longacres; Harold Heath, former president of the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Opera; and Lloyd Andrews, former state superintendent of schools.
But why Spokane?
“Licenses aren’t where you’d like to have them or on the day you’d like to have them,” Schulman said, adding that it is rare for a new channel to be created. When the Federal Communications Commission license became available here, after the people who originally applied for it withdrew, the KSKN owners competed for it and got it.
There is plenty of room in Spokane for another television station, Schulman said.
He’s banking on it.
Sunday, August 28, 1983