Christian Broadcaster Demands Reversal of KOCE-TV Sale

Times Staff Writer

A Christian broadcaster, rebuffed in its bid to buy Orange County’s public broadcasting station, is demanding that Coast Community College District reverse its decision to sell KOCE-TV to a group that promised to preserve it as a PBS affiliate.

In a Feb. 4 letter to the district, Daystar Television Network, the nation’s second-largest religious broadcaster, said its $25.1-million offer was higher than the winning bid from the KOCE-TV Foundation, which is run by a group of Orange County business leaders.

Daystar said the district’s rejection of its bid “was motivated by a desire to prevent a religious organization from owning and controlling KOCE.”


Richard Lloyd Sherman, Daystar’s attorney, said he has prepared a lawsuit to force the district to sell the station to Daystar as the “highest responsible bidder,” as the law requires, and was sending a copy to the college district’s attorney.

George Brown, president of the district board of trustees, said it would discuss the demand in a closed session at its meeting Wednesday night.

“My feeling is we’re not going to do anything,” he said. “I don’t think Daystar has a prayer.”

Bob Brown, chairman of the foundation, said the lawsuit didn’t worry him. He declined to comment further, citing an agreement with the district.

The deal between the district and the foundation won’t be finalized until March, said Milford Dahl, the district’s attorney.

The threat of lawsuits if the station were sold to a televangelist had surfaced long before any deal was sealed. The Corp. for Public Broadcasting and PBS had said they might sue for the return of grants and equipment, and some donors said they would want their money back.


Other PBS supporters threatened to tie up the license transfer before the Federal Communications Commission for several years. Trustees said those possibilities helped persuade them to sell to the foundation.

Even after the board voted to sell the station in October, some trustees said they wouldn’t be surprised if a disgruntled bidder took them to court.

The dispute revolves around the district’s sale of Channel 50, which it characterized as a $32-million deal but which, because of payments over time, may be worth only half that in today’s dollars.

Daystar offered $25.1 million cash. The district rejected a second-round $40-million bid from the Dallas-based Christian broadcaster, saying it arrived a day late.

Pappas Telecasting Cos. also offered $25.1 million cash and planned to turn KOCE into what it said would be the first noncommercial Spanish-language station in the country. But because the Visalia-based company failed to make a first-round offer, the board rejected its bid.

The district’s deal with the foundation changed substantially from the original terms and raised questions even among those involved in the negotiations. Dahl told trustees that if the sale had been between private parties, it would not have been approved, George Brown said.