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KNXT TV 49: California's First Multilingual TV Station

NCM Profile

NCM, Profile, Daniela Rible Posted: Jul 28, 2004

In the early 1980s, Marv Harrison, Bishop Joseph J. Madera and Father David Duran had seen enough of banal nonreligious television programming, and they realized the need for an alternative and a Catholic voice in the Central Valley. They began exploring ways to fill the void.

A few years later on November 2,1986 with the help of an anonymous donor, KNXT Ch. 49 had its first broadcast. More than 1,000 people attended the kick-off celebration that day

In its early days, KNXT broadcasted 17 hours a day, with six local programs, to more than 300,000 viewers. Now the station televises through public and cable stations to approximately 700,000 viewers throughout the Central Valley from Kern to Fresno to Merced counties. KNXT offices, studios and Master Control are all housed on the grounds of San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno.

KNXT says it is the first multi-lingual, multicultural television station in the country. Owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, it is also the only 24-hour station in the country owned by a Catholic diocese, although it receives some of its funding through an annual fundraiser as well.

Programs range from religious themes 65 percent of the programs focus on religious topics -- and public affairs to cultural, family and childrens educational shows. Religious programs include daily Catholic masses, discussions on saints and church doctrines and live coverage from the Vatican.

The television stations primary aim is to disseminate information and provide education and also give a voice to the variety of the area's ethnic groups and build a community of mutual respect and cooperation. Approximately one third of KNXTs audience is Latino. And within the last five years a growing number of the station's viewers are also Mixtec, an indigenous group from the Mexican state of Oaxaca who have been disenfranchised from their land in Mexico. The Mixtecs' native language is close to Mayan, and KNXT hopes to eventually produce programs in Mixtec as well.

KNXT already airs 16 locally produced programs in four languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hmong.

The weekly Spanish program Imagines y Voces Del Pueblo (Images and Voices of the Village) discusses health, immigration, educational and cultural issues.

Os Portugues No Vale (The Portuguese in the Valley) broadcasts information on social services as well as education and health issues. Hmong Today is a weekly live, interactive program in Hmong discussing education, health, citizenship and current affairs both locally and nationally. The show has even hosted the first Hmong state senator from Minnesota a few times.

Some of the station's 50 English-language programs also have a strong ethnic angle. Forum For a Better Understanding, is 30-minutes, often controversial and features multi-ethnic religious leaders discussing important social and religious issues in the community. In this program, three panelists representing Protestants, Armenian Orthodox, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, to name a few, discuss current issues, hosted by a Catholic. A recent program invited a Brahma Kumari, a Rabbi and a Muslim guest to talk about Islam and how to address radicalism. The topic upset a few viewers, but we need to continue to disseminate information, says Rosa Maria Gendrn, KNXTs assistant general manager.

Classic Arts, one of the stations hit programs, shows clips of plays, concerts, operas and museums two to three times a week. The show inspires people to visit local cultural centers, says Gendrn.

KNXT is affiliated with several networks across the country, including Classic Arts Network, Eternal Word & Network, World Harvest, Boston Catholic TV, WLAE, Ministerio and Verbo y Vida (Words and Life).

For several years now, KNXT has been transmitting on a digital channel in Bakersfield and it is exploring the legal possibilities of transmitting through the satellite receiver Direct TV.

The station will also improve local production with new sets and images for each program as well as improve the signal and production quality. We also plan to add additional local programs because thats where the niche is that is not addressed in the mainstream. People want to hear about local issues and make a better life in the Valley, says Gendrn.

For a listing of the stations highlights, please visit

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