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— Is KPBS, the public TV and radio station complex owned by San Diego State University, with an annual budget of $16.7 million, in imminent danger of going off the air for lack of a federal grant? That's what KPBS executives, in a bid for yet more money, are telling the U.S. Commerce Department. "Unless KPBS is able to obtain emergency funding this year to construct its own tower to support its antennas, the station will have to cease broadcast operations, plain and simple." According to a grant application KPBS recently filed with the feds, the station needs $687,000 in federal funds to help put up a new antenna and buy six new digital studio cameras to replace what the station says are "obsolete" models. "The broadcast transmission facilities for KPBS are located atop the 2600-foot peak of Mount San Miguel," the station explains in its application. "The station's antenna is currently top-mounted on a 150-foot self-supporting tower that is owned by independent commercial UHF station kswb-tv. kswb-tv management has informed KPBS that it must remove its Channel 15 antenna from the top of the tower prior to January 1, 2000. If KPBS is to continue its 31-year role as the sole provider of public television service to over 2.6 million San Diego citizens, it is extremely urgent that emergency funding for a new tower to support its antenna be provided by late 1998." According to the application, KPBS spends $6.3 million of its $16.7 million annual budget on "salaries and benefits"; $1.8 million on "program acquisition"; and $3.3 million on "miscellaneous other expenses." Another $2.7 million is earmarked to pay "SDSU Indirect Expenses." In addition to the $1.1 million it received from the federally sponsored Corporation for Public Broadcasting, state-owned KPBS says last year it collected $4.6 million in so-called "membership" fees from local viewers, as well as $3 million from billionaire philanthropist Joan Kroc.

Post Newspaper Guild

The week after Union-Tribune reporters and ad salespeople voted to dump their labor union, the Newspaper Guild, members of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists breezed into town for their annual convention. Featured speakers included the Union-Tribune's Neil Morgan, a member of U-T management and a close friend of U-T publisher Helen Copley, on the subject "What are we doing here?" The event was sponsored in part by $2000 from Local 95 of the Newspaper Guild ... As part of its successful effort to get its employees to decertify the guild, U-T management put out a glossy, 50-page magazine entitled Give Change a Chance, featuring answers to questions said to be anonymously submitted by U-T reporters. Wrote one: "Our editor is never around. It's been this way for years. We've complained, but nothing is done. We can't find the editor of our section in the office half the time. How can we be told to trust the company? Some of us see our supervisors arrive after we do, take longer breaks (and in some cases cigarette breaks that are longer than our lunches). Many of us have complained for years about some managers, and nothing has been done." Replied U-T management: "Some people may simply be miscast and need to leave the company."

Burning ears

At yet another recent newspaper convention held in San Diego, ex-cbs news chieftain Van Gordon Sauter berated the crowd of mainstream journalists, accusing them of putting out papers that are "exhaustingly safe" and "rarely, if ever, risk offense, take a risk, or call a scalawag a scalawag." He added, "One senses today that journalists, particularly print journalists, represent the special pleaders, if they represent anyone at all. In too many cases, pages are lifeless, writing is banal, and columnists don't kick butt. There is an apparent abhorrence of flair." Needless to say, the speech wasn't covered in the Union-Tribune ... Former Houston mayor Bob Lanier is safely back in Texas after suffering a heart attack last week at the Golden Door fat farm near Escondido. Lanier was rushed to Palomar Medical Center for successful angioplasty after he complained of indigestion while eating a fruit plate at the posh resort, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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