NEWS that KING-TV’s “Up Front with Robert Mak” will be canceled after Sunday is bad news, not just for political wonks who follow local public affairs closely but also for casual viewers enlightened by more in-depth coverage of gubernatorial candidates and legislative issues.
This is the second local public-affairs program to end after the general election. On Nov. 9, KCTS aired its final episode of “KCTS 9 Connects.” The weekly show is finished, but host Enrique Cerna will stay on to develop new content.
When “Up Front” premiered shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it quelled a hunger in the Seattle broadcast market for meaningful analysis of political issues.
The station tapped Robert Mak, a political reporter with a gift for demystifying complicated topics. His signature hard-hitting interviews with public officials and office-seekers are rare for their length and depth.
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Mak and his longtime producer, Mike Cate, don’t just serve up highbrow information. Whether explaining education funding, the intricacies of our tax system or the latest initiatives, they make the information interesting. This is no easy feat in television, where typical news reports are 90 seconds or less in length.
Six hundred shows and several Emmys later, “Up Front” continues to set a high standard that most other stations nationwide are unwilling or incapable of replicating.
That’s why KING-TV’s decision to cancel the program disappoints so many. Management blamed the necessity of recent cutbacks, not ratings for “Up Front.”
Historically, the Federal Communications Commission has required that broadcasters provide meaningful news and public-affairs programming relevant to their local audience in exchange for the use of limited, valuable airwaves. In part, this is the role “Up Front” helped the NBC affiliate to fulfill.
Most stations treat the rule as an afterthought. Half-hour public affairs programs have largely disappeared or have dwindling audiences.
“Up Front” is different. It combines a journalist’s credibility honed over 20 years of reporting in Seattle with high-quality production.
It is simply powerful television.
Loyal fans have started a “Save Up Front with Robert Mak on KING 5” Facebook page. Their slogan is “Save the Mak!”
Count us among the fans who will miss this half hour of smart, insightful public-affairs programming.