KMPH Fights For Pol Position In California

While some newsroom chiefs might see adding a daily political show to a maxed-out newsroom as a Herculean task not worth tackling, KMPH Fresno News Director Jim Turpin says he’s had the time of his professional life since the station debuted California Vote 2010 in April. But Turpin isn’t just producing the Monday-to- Friday political program for KMPHKFRE viewers: Stations up and down the California coast air the state-politics-themed show as well.

There’s never a lack of material for California Vote 2010, which is slated to end Nov. 2 but may live on. “The politicians are, for lack of a better way to say it, kind of nuts here,” Turpin says with a laugh. “It feels good to hold them accountable for the job they do.”

Stations nationwide stand to reap some $2.5 billion in political advertising in 2010, SNL Kagan reported, a 25% bump over 2006. They’re covering the political races in a host of ways. WFTV Orlando will host and produce a live senate debate Oct. 6, while WESH Orlando airs Florida’s senatorial hopefuls’ Round 2 on Oct. 26.

KMPH-KFRE is managed by Titan Broadcast Management, which took over the Pappas Telecasting stations after Pappas entered into bankruptcy proceedings. Six stations outside the Fresno market air the 30-minute California Vote, including KBFX Bakersfield, KOFY San Francisco and Titan’s Los Angeles independent KDOC, along with various Estrella TV outlets. KMPH anchor Monty Torres hosts the program, which shoots around 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and is distributed to partner stations via an FTP site. It airs in a range of time slots, such as 10:30 p.m. on KKFX Santa Barbara and midnight on KUSI San Diego.

California Vote
, which KMPH-KFRE General Manager Jack Peck says reaches more than 85% of the state (ironically, it does not air in capital Sacramento), has attracted candidates’ cash. The camps for gubernatorial hopefuls Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman appreciate that their messages can reach almost the entire state through spots on the show, while local candidates have bought individual market time. “It’s not making a huge amount of money,” Peck says, “but it is profitable.”

California Vote is done on a modest budget. Segments infrequently come from the KMPH newsroom, which is already tasked with producing 6½ hours of daily news content. Instead, they’re culled from partnerships with Sacramento’s Capitol Television News Service and CNN, along with polls and secondary media sources. Stations in the affiliate network occasionally contribute pieces of statewide interest, too. “We try to mine content from all over that impacts California, or is of interest to California,” Turpin says. “This business model makes the most sense.”

A few of KMPH’s station partners have asked if California Vote might continue beyond Election Day. Turpin suggests that producing the program is like climbing a mountain each day, but makes it sound like an always satisfying hike. “It’s an interesting juggling act, but it’s been great,” he says. “Everybody at the station chips in on it—the newsroom sees it as their baby and takes great pride in it.”

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Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.