Frank Azevedo “always wanted to own a TV station.” Eight years ago (1997) , the Modesto area almond grower made the leap. He applied to the FCC for a “limited power community broadcast license” and received it. His station, KAZV-TV, Channel 14, Modesto, operates out of a house on his farmstead, providing a steady stream of local-content programming plus classic movies and re-runs of popular shows from the past, such as I love Lucy, Bob Hope and The Andy Griffith show.
How did a young fellow raised on an almond and grape farm get hooked on TV production? Easy, says Azevedo. “When I was growing up, farming didn't appeal to me. “ He may not have enjoyed farm life, but he spent plenty of time in the orchards and vineyards helping his father with the chores, learning the almond growing business.
In 1965, the property across the street from the Azevedo ranch was sold to a radio/TV station operator (Chester Smith). I was fascinated with it and hung out there getting acquainted with the people and what they did, “ Azevedo recalls. “During my senior year in high school, one of the employees went on vacation and I was hired to fill in for him.” That experience hooked Azevedo for good. The next year he enrolled at the local community college, took television classes and continued to work at the station across from his home. He tried radio, did a stint as a disk jockey and followed his passion to San Francisco State and a degree in broadcasting.
“After graduation from SF state, I came home to the farm and continued to help out here while working at the station across the street (KLOC TV). “ Azevedo says. During that period he tried retail advertising, taught the local community college and produced instructional videos for the college. The passage of Proposition 13 ended that job, so Azevedo took a job as a media instructor with a large non-profit association that trained injured and seasonal workers for full time jobs in the electronic media industry. For six years he combined that full-time job with his farm chores. His father had died and he had taken over responsibility for his parent's property. When a block of almonds adjoining his parent's farm became available, he bought it and began farming it as well.
Azevedo has delivered to Blue Diamond for 25 years. “It was the best deal I could find,” he says. “I liked the fact that it is grower owned, is financially secure and pays top dollar, especially now. It's great!” He's been farming ever since, but soon his dream job would become a reality. First, however, his teaching job with the non-profit agency opened some doors for him that would take him one step closer to his goal.
While helping his students apply for jobs with local media companies, he got to know the cable TV managers in the surrounding communities. He also noticed that, at that time, unlike cable companies in the larger markets, such as Sacramento and Fresno, local cable networks were not carrying local advertising.
Sensing a major opportunity for himself as well as local cable areas, he offered to provide a “turn key” service to sell and produce ready-to-use advertising for them. The local managers referred him to corporate headquarters. His visits with the heads of the national cable companies earned him the green light to insert local commercials in CNN, ESPN and USA networks.
Azevedo bought several hundred thousand dollars of production equipment, hired a crew and began selling and producing local ads for Stanislaus County cable systems. “ I put the first commercials on cable in rural Stanislaus County,” he recalls with pride. “I made a ton of money, but I knew the business would be short-lived. As soon as the cable companies saw the potential, they would take the business in-house or someone with deeper pockets would come along and take it over. And that's exactly what happened. But it got me started in business on my own.” A few years later, Azevedo applied for a new class of broadcast license, known as a limited power community broadcast license, the the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created in 1982 to serve areas that were considered undeserved by conventional broadcasters. Rural Stanislaus County fit that description perfectly, Azevedo pointed out.
“The nearest TV outlets are in Sacramento and Fresno,” he explained. “This area needed a TV station, so I started one.” Azevedo received his license in 1997 and set up shop in a house on his almond ranch. Soon KAZV-TV, Channel 14 was on the air. With links to two national networks, KAZV-TV “cherry picks” the networks' programming such as hunting and fishing shows, golf, car shows and wrestling. But my real love is our local programming, “ Azevedo proclaims.
The local-content programming includes his favorite, the nightly show “Home Town Focus”. The show spotlights local communities, providing information and entertainment indigenous to individual communities from Stockton to Merced. KAZV-TV runs an every-other-week, Tuesday night agricultural show hosted by the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, broadcasts a political feature hosted by a local county supervisor, and sets up shop at the County Fair each year for it full ten-day run.
What does he think of his double life as a farmer/broadcaster? “It's a great combination and very fulfilling,” Azevedo says. “There is never a dull moment. The TV part can get very high pressure, trying to make ends meets by selling ads, and producing commercials and videos for clients, but I love it. When things get too tense, I can walk out the back door, get on a tractor and disappear into the orchard for a change of pace. And I don't carry a cell phone with me!”
(Courtesy of the Blue Diamond Almond Facts Magazine May -June 2005)
Azevedo conducts local programming.
Azevedo edits a tape for airing on KAZV, Channel 14
Frank Azevedo in front of KAZV-TV studios heading for his orchard and some weed spraying