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Actor Jack Scalia hosts KOCT's "Proud to Serve." The local public access television station is celebrating 40 years of providing public access programming in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook/KOCT
Actor Jack Scalia hosts "Proud to Serve" on KOCT. The local television station is celebrating 40 years of providing public access programming in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook/KOCT
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KOCT to celebrate 40 years of community television

OCEANSIDE — The city’s very own television station is celebrating its 40th anniversary of bringing public access programming to residents across North County.

Oceanside Community Service Television Corporation (KOCT TV) began when founder Bob Bowditch realized a need for coverage of Oceanside City Council meetings for residents who couldn’t make it to the meetings in person.

Bowditch created Oceanside’s own public access channel, which was appointed on Oct. 14, 1981, to be part of the Cable TV Ad HOC Committee, a group that reviewed services related to local cable television.

The city gave the station the necessary tools and space for its own community television channel. In 1982, the channel began covering Oceanside City Council meetings and has been doing so ever since.

KOCT is a nonprofit organization providing 24/7 public, educational and government access programming on Cox Channels 18 and 19 as well as through live streams on its own website. The station provides live coverage and replays of all City Council meetings, documentary productions, election programming, talk shows and other community content.

Providing public access television means the station provides airtime for programs focused on local happenings and productions, a service that is intended to provide more opportunities for community members to express themselves about local issues and topics of interest.

“We’re here to help inform the city of Oceanside and the surrounding community,” said KOCT Executive Director Carly Starr.

Starr first started as an intern at KOCT in the late 1980s. She later went to work in Hollywood before returning to Oceanside and starting Love Machine Films. In 2018, she took over the role as KOCT’s executive director after her predecessor, Tom Reeser, retired after 30 years.

KOCT will celebrate 40 years at its annual fundraiser on Friday, Oct. 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the KOCT television studios. A ticket per person is $40, the proceeds from which will go toward the television station. As a non-profit, the station is funded by donations as well as in part by the City of Oceanside.

“We always need donations,” Starr said. “We always need donations,” Starr said. “To keep our legacy alive and to let your voices be heard through local productions, field stories and community spotlights.”

KOCT and its team worked all the way through the COVID-19 pandemic, continuously going out into the community to report on the latest news from fire and police, and providing broadcasts of public meetings while everyone was forced to socially distance in their homes.

A few days before the fundraiser, Mayor Esther Sanchez will present a proclamation honoring KOCT for its 40 years at the Oct. 6 Oceanside City Council meeting. Sanchez will then present the honor at the fundraiser event, which will also include an award presented by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath on behalf of the state, as well as live music, dancing, raffles and a silent auction.

According to KOCT, the station is “one of the last remaining fulfillment of unbiased public broadcasting” in the nation.

“We’re like a unicorn in a field at this point,” Starr said. “That’s why it’s such a beautiful thing that we’re celebrating 40 years.”

Starr said the station’s legacy is thanks to a concerted group of people who have worked at the station and believe in keeping its mission of providing a voice for North County.

“People need to understand what an amazing, community jewel we have here at KOCT,” Starr said. “I think it’s wonderful to see how it’s grown throughout the decades with Oceanside and North County.”