Bothered by the thought of U.S. soldiers in the Persian Gulf having to spend the holidays away from home, Paragon Cable community television manager John Webber decided it was time to do something to show support.
Beginning this week, Paragon Cable will start videotaping messages from family members and friends who have loved ones overseas. Though final authorization has yet to be given by officials with Armed Forces Radio and Television Service network, the intent is to broadcast the videos to troops in the desert.
"We see so much of the troops on television--different guys saying hello to their wives, children, mothers and fathers," Webber, 28, said. "I thought it would be nice if we could return some of that, to send a little bit of home out to the desert."
On Thursday, Paragon Cable, which serves about 60,000 subscribers in Torrance, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Gardena and El Segundo, will hold a day of taping sessions, Webber said. Depending on the response, an additional session may be scheduled for Dec. 4.
Paragon officials will help families figure out what they want to say and will provide a videotaped copy of their message if they want one, Webber said.
Paragon will edit the messages together and send them to the Armed Forces' television network, the Department of Defense agency that provides U.S. television programming to 1 million military personnel and their families around the world.
Larry Marotta, television programming manager of the network, said he will review the tapes for "quality control" and tastefulness before deciding whether to send them to military programming officials in Saudi Arabia, who will ultimately decide whether to use them.
About two dozen groups nationwide have expressed an interest in sending messages to the troops overseas, Marotta said.
"We have gotten a lot of calls from cable companies, video clubs and local television stations, all wanting to do something to let the guys and gals in Operation Desert Shield know they're thinking about them," Marotta said.
But although many groups have made inquiries about it, few have supplied him with any tapes, he said. He said he couldn't guarantee that the messages will be shown, but said it would be more likely if they are well-produced.
The shorter the messages are, the more likely they would be aired, he said.
In addition to its regular broadcasts of ballgames and news programs, the Armed Forces network sends taped material, including movies and children's programs, around the world to its outlets, where local program schedules are put together.
During the World Series in October, more than 100 messages were broadcast during commercial breaks, and several National Football League players have recorded 10-second greetings to the troops that are shown before and after football games.
The cast and crew of the television show "Knot's Landing" did a one-hour video postcard that included behind-the-scenes interviews with the stars, he said.
But because of a delay in getting permits from the Saudi Arabian government to put up a satellite link, only about one-fifth of the military personnel in the Persian Gulf are getting the Armed Forces' television broadcasts, Marotta said. Most of the Navy ships are receiving the signal, he said.
Even if it is unlikely that a soldier would see his own family's message, Webber said: "Maybe someone else's son is going to see it. And during Christmas, that's going to help."