Rick Bentley

Oscar Speace celebrates 35 years and counting at ValleyPBS

Longtime ValleyPBS producer/director Oscar Speace also writes plays. Janice Noga, right, starred in his “Janka,” a plays about Speace’s mother who survived the Holocaust.
Longtime ValleyPBS producer/director Oscar Speace also writes plays. Janice Noga, right, starred in his “Janka,” a plays about Speace’s mother who survived the Holocaust. Fresno Bee file

Those who work in radio and television will tell you that the typical stay at a station is only a few years. People like Oscar Speace destroy the average.

On July 1, Speace celebrated his 35th year working at ValleyPBS. There’s been very little programming at the public television station that Speace didn’t produce or direct. His work includes being the creator and producer of “Valley Press” and directing more than 750 programs.

Speace graduated from Fresno State with a television production degree and started at KVPT.

“This is the job I always wanted to do, but I had heard the stories of new bosses coming in and people getting fired after three or four years,” Speace says before starting another day of work.

Speace has seen a lot over the years, from volunteer cameramen passing out during filming to an unfortunate question about “Sesame Street.”

About that question: At one time, pledge drives lasted all day, including live breaks during shows. The on-air host during “Sesame Street” was showing off the View-Master Viewer that was the premium gift. It featured the letters of the alphabet.

“On the first day, she asked, ‘What is your favorite A word?’ It was apple. A few days later, she asked, ‘What’s your favorite F word?’ 

There have been a lot of technical changes in 35 years. For instance, when Speace started, the cameras would often go out of sync and create a ghost-like effect. Programs were recorded on three-quarter-inch videotape. Now, everything is digital and he doesn’t even need a camera operator.

His work has ranged from directing a live broadcast of the California Appellate Court for the California Network to producing and directing the Emmy-nominated film “Conquest of My Bother.”

Speace spent five of his years at ValleyPBS doing double duty working as an associate director for the ABC30 evening news programs. That schedule finally wore him down.

He now uses his extra time to write, having penned five screenplays, two children’s plays and “Janka,” a play based on his mother who was Jewish. It had a successful run in New York a year ago.

Speace praises ValleyPBS for being so flexible with his hours, allowing him to travel the world with the play. He’s not so sure that would have been the case if he had been working for one of the local commercial TV stations.

The 68-year-old is thinking about retiring when he hits 70. The key word is thinking, because Speace says he’s enjoying his job – the one he always wanted to do since college.

Back in Fresno

Amy Gill, who spent a year on the “Sports Central Team” at KSEE/KPGE starting in 2014, returned to Fresno after a year of working in Baton Rouge. She was the sports director for the NBC/FOX affiliates in the Louisiana city.

She joined the KMJ radio news team on July 5 as a reporter.

“I grew up in this area,” says the Clovis West High School graduate. “I missed my family and the area a lot.”

Before her time with KSEE/KGPE, she studied broadcast journalism at San Francisco State. Her career has also taken her to WTAJ in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

The switch from TV to radio has not been that difficult for Gill. The biggest adjustment has been going from sports to news.

Sound work

La Preciosa✔ 92.9 FM will hold its first Festival de Verano Concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 17, at the Community Park at the Sierra Vista Mall. The free event is described as a celebration for listeners to kick off summer in the Central Valley.

There are a limited number of VIP tickets to purchase that include premium seats and a meet and greet. A portion of the beverage sales will go to the Central Valley Blue Star Moms, a non-partisan military service support group.

Artists scheduled to perform include Omar Chaparro, Banda La Troyana, Alex Inda, La Reunion Norteña and Alta Frecuencia.

On-air personalities Pepe Reyes, Velia Irene, Kora, Galindo, Sergio Alejandro, Samuel Ramirez and Efrain Garcia will host the event.

Stars galore

Comic Con International San Diego 2016 will feature a lot of television stars. There are panels planned for “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Dead of Summer,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Designated Survivor,” “The Magicians,” “The Expanse,” “Mr. Robot,” “Riverdale,” “Powerless,” “People of Earth,” “Frequency,” “Blindspot,” “The Originals,” “Lucifer,” “Supergirl,” “Flash,” “Arrow,” “Time after Time,” “iZombie,” “Vampire Diaries,” “All That,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple!” “Colony” and “Star Trek.”

The comic book convention runs from Thursday, July 21 to Sunday, July 24.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

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