KMTP-TV, channel 32, is an independent, noncommercial television station located in San Francisco, California. Owned and operated by the Minority Television Project, KMTP has its main studio and offices in Palo Alto, California, and transmitter situated atop Mount Sutro.
KMTP airs a large amount of multilingual, ethnic programming. The station produces and broadcasts a daily news show, 5 Day News, and also broadcasts programming from Deutsche Welle TV, RT (Russia Today), and the Classic Arts Showcase. KMTP is one of the few non-PBS-affiliated public television stations in the United States, and one of two such stations in the San Francisco Bay Area (The other is KCSM-TV in San Mateo).
The station on channel 32 began commercially as one of the first UHF TV stations in the United States in 1954 as KSAN-TV, owned by the Patterson family, operators of KSAN radio, showing an amalgam of boxing and wrestling matches, medical conferences, and old movies. KSAN-TV operated a small production studio and broadcast operation housed in the renovated Sutro Mansion in San Francisco. The station went off the air in 1958.
The TV station was purchased by Metromedia in 1968, when the call sign was moved to an FM station and the station rechristened KNEW-TV, to match its co-owned KNEW radio and to compliment Metromedia's flagship station in New York, WNEW-TV (now Fox-owned WNYW). KNEW-TV ran the syndicated Metromedia talk shows and variety programming of such stars as shock-talker Joe Pyne, and others.
This format was unsuccessful, and by 1970, channel 32 was given to leading public broadcaster KQED (channel 9) and rechristened, this time as KQEC, a member station of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). KQED held onto the station until 1988 when the FCC revoked the license, ruling that it had been off the air too much to remain in the hands of the KQED ownership (KQED kept KQEC off the air for most of 1972 through 1977, and then again for several months in 1979-80), and reassigned the license to Minority Television Project, one of the challengers of the KQEC license.
In 2004, the FCC levied a $10,000 fine against KMTP for showing paid commercials on a station with an educational license. While it is commonplace for PBS and similar stations to show underwriters' messages that resemble commercials, it is illegal for educationally licensed stations, like KMTP, to show advertisements that do not meet the standards for underwriting announcements., KMTP appealed the decision in 2005, but the fine was upheld, prompting KMTP to file a lawsuit against the FCC in U.S. District Court the following year.
In suing the FCC, KMTP felt it was unfairly penalized by the FCC's rules concerning underwriting and not taking into account foreign language broadcasting. A number of independent non-PBS public television stations are in the United States; other such stations include KCSM-TV in nearby San Mateo, KCET in downstate Los Angeles, the WNVC/WNVT MHz Networks group in Northern Virginia, WNYE-TV in New York City, and WYBE in Philadelphia. The underwriting rules do not take into account foreign languages and the variations in pronunciations and meanings. KMTP carried out research to find out what the public interpreted a commercial to be. Using a numerical grading system certain aspects of a video clip were found by the public to "feel" like a commercial or not like a commercial. These findings were presented to the FCC, as it did not depend on any particular words or phrases which can be misinterpreted when foreign languages are used. The FCC rejected KMTP's attempt to clarify the underwriting rules, leaving KMTP with no choice but to take the matter to the courts.
The ultimate outcome of KMTP's lawsuit could have far-reaching affects as it could redefine the very definition of what a public television station is. One of the main points is freedom of political speech, as the current underwriting rules have a chilling effect on KMTP accepting political spots, as they could be interpreted as violating the current rules when broadcast in a foreign language. The Ninth Circuit Court was due to make its initial brief in March 2010.
On April 12, 2012 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on two of the issues raised by KMTP's suit. The court ruled that noncommercial stations can air advertisements for both candidates and political position statements. The 1981 federal law was found to be violating free speech. This was a partial victory for KMTP, as it did not address the basic issue of how commercials differ from the sponsorships on which most public stations depend for financial support.
The station's digital channel, UHF 33, is multiplexed:
|32.1||KMTP Digital - Deutsche Welle TV, Russia Today TV, others|
|32.5||ARTS - Classic Arts Showcase|