A grass-roots fund-raising drive has been started to try to resuscitate Channel 13’s local public-affairs programming.

“I was appalled when I heard that these programs were going off the air,” says Jerry Diggin, who organized the campaign two days after the financial ax fell early in July. “It was almost a personal loss.”

Diggin, a word-processing specialist who moved to Dallas from California four years ago, says the goal is to raise $750,000 to $1 million, the amount KERA-TV says it costs annually to produce News Day, Voices and Business Edition.

“We plan to put collection jars in businesses, restaurants and bars,” Diggin says. “We hope to see a total community involvement.”

Diggin says initial support has been garnered from the Valley View and Wanda Ware bridge clubs, the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Dallas Gay Alliance. “We expect many more groups to join us once it becomes known what we’re trying to do,” he says.

Richard Meyer, Channel 13’s president and general manager, announced July 6 that the programs had abruptly been taken off the air in the name of overall fiscal integrity for the public television station. Federal budget cuts engineered by the Reagan Administration have dealt a financial blow to public TV stations across the country.

Diggin says Meyer has assured him that the three programs would be resurrected “in one form or another” if the requisite funding could be raised.

Hortense Sanger, a member of the station’s board of trustees, says Diggin’s efforts have her support.

“I would only hope that participation is not limited to people who have money,” Sanger says. “Public television is not an elitist endeavor.”

Diggin says an ad hoc committee is overseeing the fund-raising effort.

“Our rough idea is to first get the programs back on the air,” he says. “Then we’ll look at the possibility of some sort of long-term corporate financing. We understand that Thai Airlines and American Airlines might be interested.”

Diggin says a “gut reaction” impelled him to undertake the project as soon as he learned of the programs’ demise.

“I’m a self-educated person,” he says, “and public TV has been a large part of my education. Local programming is vital. I don’t want to be Kermit-the-Frogged to death.”


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