Local Television Innovator's Dream Becoming A Reality
June 11, 1978
It has been 12 years since Chester Smith's Modesto television station started broadcasting from its site on Iowa Avenue, west of Modesto. But the principal owner of KLOC-TV, Channel 19, said major changes are in store for the independent television outlet and, hopefully, many will become a reality later this year.
In the early years of the station, Smith and his wife, Naomi, lived in the office-trailer on the 20-acre "KLOC Ranch" and survived the lean years with profits from his radio station. And, for lack of better programming, the station even videocast the radio disc jockey. Smith relied on his many years of radio experience and integrity to keep the television station afloat. The easy-going Smith admits that he "kept a low profile all those lean years while trying to find a need and fill it. Now, we're quite successful, though radio helped pay the bills for awhile and with student help and a lot of prayers, we kept the television station on the air."
It took the nationwide switch to new color sets with improved UHF tuners, the advent of cablevision systems and KLOC-TV's power boost to 3.5 million watts to turn the station around in the late '60s and early '70s. Smith further added that, "We envisioned in the beginning a total first-class station serving the Modesto-Merced area and we started with good movies, children's programs and news. Advertisers supported us in the beginning, but it didn't last. Then SIN came along in 1972 and it saved us."
SIN, or Spanish International Network, is a minority broadcasting network that started in Texas in 1961. Today, more than 13 stations are affiliated with SIN, with facilities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno and Modesto-Ceres. Most of SIN's programming is imported from Mexico and South America. Now, with the added network, KLOC-TV is carried on some 30 cablevision systems in Northern California.
Smith admits though that, in the beginning and prior to SIN affiliation, he "honestly thought Modesto needed a general audience station but I was ahead of my time. We came in under financed with too low power and the home sets couldn't pick us up very well." He added that KLOC was the first UHF television station in the valley to come on the air and remain unsold. Now, he says, "I'm responsible for 35 salaries and we've never had a paycheck bounce."
Today, the changes at KLOC-TV continue: All studio equipment has been replaced and $300,000 in a new high-power transmitter and antenna is on order. Another $200,000 has been spent for movie projectors, a studio camera and control room equipment. The Ceres-licensed station will also get a major power increase to 5 million watts, with the new antenna site near San Andreas The coverage area is expected to greatly increase from its present antenna site atop Mt. Oso.
KLOC-TV's new general sales manager, Vince Paul, said the new high- powered signal is expected to capitalize the Spanish-speaking market in the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto viewing area. This is especially true since the Spanish-language Channel 31 in Sacramento, owned by the Pappas brothers, is being sold to pay-TV status. He said KLOC just completed production of the first regional Spanish-language commercial for Ford Motor Company, using Ford's ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, to test market the commercial on KLOC.
Programming changes include the addition of full-length movies, old Hollywood classics, which began on June 1st. One feature is shown at noon, during the programming break between Christian broadcasting and the SIN network. And the 11 pm feature is being shown uncut. According to Paul, local merchants are being approached by salespersons, who moved into offices on I Street in downtown Modesto. He added that, "What we're trying to say is 'OK, Modesto, you have a television station in your backyard, so let's support it."
Besides SIN, KLOC-TV has also affiliated with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), now a powerful nationwide medium after meager beginnings a decade ago in Virginia. The network announced this spring it has ordered 30 satellite earth stations for delivery in the next several months, with another 30 to follow. When completed, CBN will air a daily national and international newscast and later, twice-daily, six days a week to independent stations like KLOC, across the nation.
Chester Smith said the changes expected to reach fruition this year didn't come overnight. KLOC Broadcasting, Inc., more than two years ago sought a new UHF television allocation in Salinas and transmitters already have been purchased in expectation of FCC license approval. Once on the air, the new Salinas Channel 35 will offer Spanish-language programming to the community.
For the Modesto-based operation, Smith said long-range plans include more community involvement, perhaps video-taping local events, such as youth soccer and a projected relocation of the television studio closer to town.
Smith ended his 28-year on-the-air radio career in 1976 after making his debut in 1947 as a country singer and announcer on KTRB in Modesto. Today, however, he's back on the air with "A Man Called Smith" show on television, still plucking his guitar.
Channel 19 signed on the air on August 15, 1966 as KLOC-TV. The station was founded by country and western performer Chester Smith, who also owned what then was KLOC-AM 920 in Ceres, California. His company, Sainte Partners II, L.P. presently owns KCSO-LP in Sacramento as well as stations in Chico/Redding, Eureka, Salinas/Monterey/Santa Cruz and Medford, Oregon.
Initially, KLOC was a general entertainment station, and was one of the handful of stations that carried the one month of programming from the United Network in May, 1967. About a year after its sign on, the syndicators providing KLOC's programming raised their prices to that of a Sacramento-licensed station (they had been paying the lower prices of an unrated market), and Smith resorted to simulcasting the co-owned radio station in the daytime, including a camera in the radio studio to show the disc jockey when he was talking, and Spanish-language telenovelas ( soap operas) in the evening, when the radio station signed off.
By the 1970s, the radio simulcast was ended and KLOC-TV's broadcast day was split into two parts, the morning portion devoted to English-language religious programming, the rest of the day (from approximately 2:00pm to sign-off) to Spanish-language programming as one of the original affiliates of SIN (the Spanish International Network), carrying the afternoon and evening schedule of KMEX from Los Angeles via a live microwave feed, as did KDTV in the Bay Area.
SIN would later be renamed Univision. In the 1980s, the station call letters were changed to KCSO (for "Chester Smith Organization").
In the late 1990s, the station was sold to Univision (Smith had accepted stock in SIN as part of the agreement to be an original affiliate), and currently airs all of its programming in Spanish as Univision 19. After the ownership change, the studios were moved from Modesto to Sacramento, and the call letters changed to KUVS.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
A page from TV Guide magazine from June of 1972 includes KLOC-TV programs.
(The following story was written by K.M. Richards about a man named Daniel Harrison "D.H." Overmyer of Toledo, OH, a self-made millionaire who gambled all of his wealth (and then some) away on the dream of becoming a network television mogul. ) http://www.uhftelevision.com/articles/overmyer.html
"The History of UHF Television .....
those channels above 13 almost no one could receive
If anyone other than D.H. Overmyer could have said they were "extremely disappointed" that the United Network had failed, it would have been Chester Smith. Smith was the "hillbilly" singer from Modesto CA who leveraged his local fame to put KLOC-TV/19 on the air August 26, 1966. When he signed on, Modesto was considered to be outside the Sacramento market, so he was paying for a handful of sitcoms and movie packages at an "unrated market" price. Within a few months, the "big boys" (the three VHF stations in Sacramento) complained to the syndicators and managed to get KLOC-TV included in the market, thereby pricing his programming out of easy reach.
KLOC-TV was probably the most unlikely choice of all time to be any network's affiliate, but ON's previously announced Sacramento affiliate KTXL/40 was not on the air yet and they approached Smith to carry the network's shows until KTXL was ready to sign on. He had hoped, then, that the temporary affiliation would have at least filled channel 19's evening hours for a year or two, by which time he might have built up enough of a "war chest" from local ad sales in the network shows to afford Sacramento market prices for prime-time movie packages.
He developed an interesting survival strategy after the network's demise (desperation being the mother of innovation) by simulcasting his KLOC/920 radio station on channel 19 until sunset, then switching to Spanish-language novellas which he acquired cheaply from television networks in Mexico. Gradually, the simulcast hours were replaced in the late mornings and early afternoons with paid religious programming, leaving only his own morning drive-time show to run on both radio and TV, and beginning the programming from Mexico earlier in the day.
In the end, it was the Overmyer Network that belatedly (and inadvertently) saved KLOC-TV and Chester Smith, because their installation of a network video link to his station got the attention of the Spanish International Network (now Univision) several years later; in working out the interconnection between their flagship station KMEX-TV/34 in Los Angeles and their planned San Francisco station KDTV/60 in 1972 they discovered the relay branch and came calling to see if Smith would replace his own Spanish-language programming with theirs, figuring he already had the audience in place. It worked out well for all concerned, since by that time SIN's programming day started right around the time channel 19 was already switching from religion to "Mexican" on its own. In fact, KLOC-TV was not only the first non-O&O SIN affiliate, it ran the network schedule for close to two years before KDTV ever signed on.
Smith ultimately got rich from his affiliation with SIN: When he sold them what was by then KCSO-TV in 1997 he took a large portion of the purchase price in stock. It was worth a small fortune by the time of his death in 2008. The above is the author's recollection of how Smith told the story when they spoke in 2005.