Horizon at 20: A Personal Journey In Front and Behind Cameras

Twenty years ago today Horizon broadcast its first episode in Southern California on KSCI Channel 18 coming into thousands of living rooms and becoming a mainstay. Today, as we celebrate this anniversary we must understand the power of the medium and its relevance in our lives.

My personal involvement in Horizon came early on in its history. As a college student in Boston who was involved in television production working at a half-hour Armenian program that aired on local cable in Watertown, Mass., I was approached by the leadership of Horizon in LA to provide coverage of events in the Boston-area and ensure that the tapes that were being dispatched every week were delivered on time to the various cable operators that carried the program on public access.

With borrowed camera equipment from the TV department at my alma-mater, Northeastern University, or the local Cablevision offices in Watertown, three friends and I would pound the pavement to bring a glimpse of our community into the homes of thousands who were experiencing this for the first time.

At a time when our community was on the move due to the various events in Armenia and elsewhere, it was critical to have a bridge that linked its members together. It was important to realize that Armenians, be they in Boston or Los Angeles, were actively mobilized in the pursuit of a common cause.

It was the critical need to build this bridge that led Horizon to engage in an exclusive deal with Hanna-Barbera productions and translate episodes of the popular Yogi Bear cartoons in Armenian to be broadcast here and in Armenia. This became one of the first groundbreaking ventures that sets Horizon apart from the rest.

After my move here to Los Angeles two years later and working at Asbarez, Horizon was part and parcel to my every day life. If anything, Horizon serves as the definitive vehicle to chronicle the growth and expansion of a community from an emerging force to a sophisticated entity, on which most of our lives are anchored.

As host of “Community Forum,” a weekly live talk-show I had the privilege of spending one hour a week speaking directly to the community. That show covered the gamut. From arts and entertainment, to raw politics, to a forum for the community to engage, participate and express itself. It was through those personal and intimate conversations that the true power of television became apparent to me as that discourse often transcended its time slot and moved into discussions beyond the airwaves and within our daily life.

Horizon set a precedent in 1999 when through a unique partnership with then Marcus Cable (later to become Charter Communications) it became a 24-hour channel providing programming to the Glendale, Burbank and La Crescenta communities.

After switching to a 24-hour format, Horizon became a go-to destination, especially for news and politics. Our ability to bring breaking news as it was happening, made Horizon a trusted and integral part of community life. There were instances where this ability reinforced our community’s place in a larger reality.

On October 27, 1999 I was awakened at 5 a.m. to be told that gunmen had seized the Armenian Parliament and killed, among others, the prime minister and the speaker of the National Assembly. By 7 a.m. we-Horizon-were on the air providing up-to-the-minute reports from the siege, and through interviews and discussion, explaining the ramification of the events on Armenia’s political life and future. What we didn’t know was that there were others watching us. While we were embroiled in the news of the day, we were also being approached by the local news media who wanted to stage their newscasts from our studios making Horizon the epicenter of the day and elevating the relevance of our channel beyond our dedicated audience.

This, of course, was months after our airwaves served as a public education platform for mobilizing, empowering and encouraging voters to turn out in droves for an historic and headline-grabbing municipal election in Glendale.

Only a year later, Horizon was thrust in the center of yet another historic, but often controversial, election battle between Adam Schiff and then Congressman Jim Rogan. The most expensive congressional race to date in US history played out on our airwaves, as a Congressional Genocide resolution was being used to persuade voters by tugging at their emotions. The rhetoric was heated and it made for some great television. The rest, as they say, is history.

For a year, I served as Horizon’s general manager. That multi-layered experience gave me the opportunity to fine tune the programming and allowed me the opportunity to interface with another integral aspect of our community: the advertisers. In a short span of time, Horizon had become a crucial tool for commerce for Armenian, as well as, non Armenian businesses. Its airwaves were not only being used to inform and entertain, but were also a viable component for sustaining our programming and operations.

Looking back at the rich history of this venerable establishment through my own lens, I can’t help but be humbled at the monumental role it plays in serving our community and bringing all its forces together. This distinguishes Horizon from other commercial broadcasts that have since been established, as it continues to remain true to its mission of catering to and becoming the voice of a diverse population that throughout the years has grown and matured due, in large part, to what Horizon has captured through its lense.

Happy anniversary Horizon!

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