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If we've learned one thing, it's not to mess with avid (rabid?) soccer fans during World Cup play. News10 did so two weeks ago, when it opted to air a Monarchs game live instead of the U.S.-Italy game - before Bee sports columnist Marcos Breton mobilized futbol fanatics to get the station to change its mind.

But last Saturday, it seems, News10 ran into more problems. It didn't air the Germany-Sweden second-round game, instead showing children's cartoons. According to News10 general manager Russell Postell, Comcast customers could watch the match on ESPN 2. But Direct TV subscribers were out of luck, apparently. Which is why the station - and The Bee's crack team of TV writers - received many e-mails of complaint.

As soccer fan David Silva of Elk Grove so eloquently put it in an e-mail to 21Q: "To someone as suspicious as I am, it would appear that there is a muckity muck at News10 who has a bug up their yahoo about soccer and is eager to preempt it at any and every opportunity. What is going on?"

Clearly, Postell had some explaining to do, and it's not an easy explanation, so pay attention.

"We are in an (FCC) license renewal year and there's a number of hours being preempted by World Cup soccer that are kids programming," he says. "We were trying to limit the preemption of kids programming and give people the soccer. In the cases where we were not covering the World Cup, we worked with ABC to get ESPN 2 to run the games in our market. This weekend, somehow, Direct TV didn't get it. Comcast had it."

Apparently, the FCC's mandate that stations run a certain amount of children's programming on weekend mornings causes problems for affiliates. Channel 3 has long received complaints for delaying "Meet the Press" - which airs Sunday mornings in most markets - until 4 p.m. The reason, according to Elliott Troshinsky, KCRA's president: FCC rules on children's programming.

There is a happy ending to the story, Postell says.

"The rest of the World Cup schedule is going to run on News10 as ABC had it," he says. "There will be no more preemptions."

-- Sam McManis

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September 2009

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