Thursday, November 29, 2007

Unity Telethon No Longer On KEYT

The holiday season is here. That means the return of those Santa Barbara holiday traditions: the downtown Christmas Parade, hanging holiday wreaths on the front grills of cars and, the Christmas Unity Telethon during the first week of December.

The telethon has been a fixture for 20 years on KEYT the local ABC-TV affiliate. However this year will be different, it won't be broadcast during the first weekend in December and when it is broadcast later in the month, KEYT won't be carrying it.

For nearly two decades the telethon thrived on KEYT when the late Bob Smith owned the station. After he passed away from cancer a few years back the family controlled Smith Media, which owns KEYT, was acquired in late 2004 by Boston Ventures, a private equity firm.

Boston Ventures, which (as you might have guessed) is based in Boston, Massachusetts, didn't want to do a telethon this year. Instead they offered to do a commercial campaign on behalf of the telethon’s beneficiary Unity Shoppe which would have run through the month of December during the 5 to 7 p.m. time block when the station carries local news and syndicated programming.

The Unity Shoppe wanted to stick with the telethon format and was able to enlist the assistance of two local sponsors. The 21st Annual Christmas Telethon will be presented by Cox Cable and sponsored by the Santa Barbara News-Press.

The telethon will take place from 2 to 11 p.m. on December 15 and can be seen on Cox Cable Channel 8 with a feed in high definition that can be viewed on Cox Cable channel 708 making it the first local TV program in this market to be broadcast in Hi Def. There will also be a Spanish language feed on another Cox channel.

The telethon will also be streamed live over the Internet on the News-Press TV website.

Perhaps hoping to regain some of the good will its lost over the past 18 months as a result of its labor troubles, the News-Press, which had been involved with the telethon in the past but not recently, will be returning to the Christmas Unity fold in a big way.

With KEYT stepping aside from the telethon at a time when donations were down and demand for services were up at the Unity Shoppe, the News-Press' sponsorship couldn't have come at a better time for the charity that has become a Santa Barbara institution.

Set to appear on this year's telethon are local celebrities Kenny Loggins, Peter Noone (best known as “Herman” of the ‘60s British invasion group, “Herman’s Hermits”) and actor Jeff Bridges.

Loggins, the founder of the telethon, will be performing two sets of two songs during the 9 p.m. time slot.

Even though KEYT has stepped aside, the telethon should still have a familiar look to it. Don Katich who has produced all of the previous telethons will continue in that role for this one making it his 21st consecutive broadcast.

And the show will still have something of a KEYT look to it with a number of former KEYT on-air personalities taking part including former weather guy, Lance Orozco.

Personally, I'm a little disappointed the current staff of KEYT won't be participating this year. I always enjoyed watching John Palminteri bouncing from location to location all over town collecting donations while dressed in a garish red suit and was looking forward to seeing Joe Gehl in a Santa Claus costume.

* * *

By now you've probably heard about Mayor Marty Blum's fainting episode while on board a airplane. The plane was diverted to Las Vegas where she spent last night in a hospital.

I want to take the opportunity to send along my personal wishes for a speedy recovery.

It will be interesting to see if the News-Press has the class to do the same on its editorial page.

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