PBS Will Extend U.S. Airing of Soviet Newscast : Television: Although PBS will show “Vremya” for two more weeks, Orange County’s KOCE must end the show Thursday due to its pledge drive.


The Public Broadcasting Service’s two-week trial showing of “Vremya,” the Soviet Union’s official, state-produced nightly television newscast which had been scheduled to conclude Friday, will be extended for two weeks. But KOCE Channel 50, Orange County’s PBS station, announced Friday that because of special spring membership festival programming, it will carry “Vremya” only through Thursday.

Alan Foster, executive producer of the news department at WGBH, the Boston station coordinating the “Vremya” broadcasts, said reaction to them has been large and positive. Still, he added, “we felt four weeks (of testing) would be a better test than two weeks. We want to find out if it’s not just a viewing novelty and will have sustained viewership.”

Judith Schaefer, KOCE’s director of public information, said that if the station was not involved in its pledge drive, it would air “Vremya” throughout the two-week extension. But “because our pledge schedule was locked in previous to the ‘Vremya’ offer, and all our promotional efforts had already been made, we are unable to schedule ‘Vremya’ during the last week,” she said.


Foster estimated that he has received 100 cards and letters a day regarding “Vremya” since its debut Feb. 12, and “the fascinating thing is that 99.9% have been positive. When you make television shows, you can always get people not to like something about it. But I can only remember one post card saying, ‘It stinks.’ No one has called it communist propaganda.”

Catherine Clark of Dana Point is one Orange County resident who has written in praise of “Vremya”: “I believe ‘Vremya’ helps the American people to see that the Soviet people are human beings just like us,” Clark wrote to KOCE.

“They have families, trouble with their government, love their children and enjoy sports just like we do, and they are not a composite Evil Empire.”

“Vremya” is being made available to PBS stations free of charge by International Video Broadcasts Inc. in Fairfax, Va., which has an agreement with Gosteleradio, the Soviet state-controlled television network, for exclusive U.S. rights to its broadcasts. The program is translated into English by Soviet nationals working for IVB.

KOCE is airing “Vremya” weeknights at 11:30. KCET in Los Angeles aired “Vremya” at midnight during the initial two-week run; a station spokeswoman said Friday the station had not yet decided whether it would carry the program for the additional two weeks.

“Vremya” is airing on 88 stations nationwide.

“There’s not a lot in the Deep South and not much of the Southwest--although Lubbock, Tex., and Las Cruces, N.M., are running it,” Foster said. “But otherwise, the heartland of America has really taken to it, as has the big city.”

Continued presentations of “Vremya” will depend on finding corporate or foundation backing. Foster estimates it would cost $1 million annually to keep “Vremya” on the air in the United States.

“The conviction is burning in my mind that there is appropriate corporate altruism or self-interest to keep it going,” he said. “Given the attention the American people been giving it, it’s a smart and cost effective underwriting venture for an American corporation or foundation.”