KOCE announces move to Costa Mesa

COSTA MESA — KOCE-TV, the Orange County’s PBS station that has operated for nearly four decades at Golden West College, will move its facilities to Costa Mesa in the coming months, President and Chief Executive Mel Rogers announced Wednesday.

The station plans to move its offices to a building at 3080 Bristol St., near South Coast Plaza, on Dec. 30, Rogers said.

The announcement came shortly after PBS declared that KOCE will replace Los Angeles-based KCET on Jan. 1 as the new full-service public station for Southern California.

The studio at Golden West College will move into the same building in the spring, Rogers said.

As the Southland’s full-service station, KOCE will broadcast to Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties and Santa Barbara.

KCET, which broadcasts to the whole region, plans to relinquish its PBS membership Dec. 31. KOCE volunteered to be its successor.

“We’re just delighted that they’re stepping up into this role to become the full-service station and provide the great adult and children’s content to the greater Southern California region,” said Anne Bentley, PBS’s vice president of corporate communications.

Rogers noted that while KOCE will continue to broadcast Orange County-themed programs, it will put more emphasis on regular PBS programming. Nationally broadcast programs such as “Masterpiece,” “Frontline,” “Tavis Smiley” and “Great Performances” will join the lineup after the new year.

The transition, he said, would also necessitate hiring more staff.

“We’re not going to start becoming the station that ignores Orange County,” Rogers said. “That’s never going to happen. This is our community. But we do have a broader obligation now, and we have to live up to that as well.”

KOCE was founded in 1972 by Norman Watson, the first chancellor of the Coast Community College District. The station initially offered telecourses to students, then expanded in the coming years to feature news programs and other locally themed shows.

Over the last decade, KOCE became the center of a protracted court battle when the KOCE-TV Foundation and the Daystar Television Network both claimed rightful ownership of the station after a bidding dispute. In 2007, the foundation reached a confidential agreement with Daystar and retained ownership of KOCE, which the district had sold three years earlier.

According to KOCE’s website, the station is the sixth-most-watched PBS station nationally and draws an estimated 5.8 million viewers every month.