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KTSF-TV: Bringing In-Language News to Asian Americans

NCM Profile

NCM, Sandip Roy Posted: Oct 08, 2003

KTSF television station was started in 1976 for four groups of people no advertisers were interested in, says Mei Ling Sze. Women, minorities, children and the elderly. Sze is anchor and managing editor at the station, which is still faithful to the vision of its founder Lillian Howell.

But the small station for forgotten population segments found itself on the cutting edge of the new California when the states demographics changed drastically in the 80s and 90s. KTSF already had immigrants on its radar screen and seized the opportunity, broadcasting in 12 to 14 languages. Today the San Francisco-based stationbroadcast on channel 26reaches over 1.4 million Asian-Americans throughout the Bay Area and attracts advertising from companies like Burger King and AT&T.

KTSF offers major programming in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Tagalog. Its biggest audience tunes in during the Cantonese news broadcasts, reflecting the booming Chinese community in the area.

Locally owned and operated by the Lincoln Broadcasting Company, KTSF (www.ktsf.com) offers more locally produced Asian programming than any other station in Northern California. It produces over 15 hours of its own programming a week, including China Crosstalk, the only live Chinese-language call-in talk show in the United States.

A typical day at KTSF might have a newscast by satellite from China, followed by a noontime soap opera and then a talk show. Sze says KTSF goes to Mainland China as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan for programs. Sometimes it ends up broadcasting a drama produced in Taiwan that is banned on the mainland. But she sees the whole region integrated culturally: people know who actor Chow Yun Fat is, be they in Taipei or Shanghai.

Sze, who used to be a news anchor and reporter in Hong Kong, is excited that more and more second generation Chinese-Americans are getting involved with KTSF. The last 10 years have seen so much growth in that part of the world, I think Chinese-Americans are proud of what they see, says Sze, who came to the United States in 1988 to join her family. They work (at the station) to be exposed to their parents heritage. They want to explore it.

A survey a few years ago found that 86 percent of the Cantonese-speaking population in the San Francisco Bay Area tuned in for the news. Lots of people say, If we dont watch the news we feel blind, says Sze.

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