If you’ve ever been confused about which channel you’re watching here in the Coachella Valley, you’re not alone: It’s been a year since the merger between the former KPSP Channel 2 and KESQ Channel 3, which left some people scratching their heads.

CBS affiliate KPSP, otherwise known as “Local 2,” was the only locally owned station in the valley. Philanthropist Jackie Lee Houston and her husband, Jim, started the station several years ago and used it to raise awareness of community-based efforts.

When Jackie Lee passed away, Jim decided to sell the station to the company which owns ABC affiliate KESQ, otherwise known as “News Channel 3.” Channel 2 immediately moved operations into Channel 3’s building, and now both stations broadcast their news from the same studio in Palm Desert. They also now use the same call letters.

If you think that is confusing, it doesn’t end there.

News Channel 3 continues to air their evening newscasts at 5 and 6, while Local 2 broadcasts theirs at 5:30, and 6:30. But wait, there’s more. The company that owns News Channel 3 also owns KDFX, otherwise known as “Fox 11.” At 10 every night, they air a newscast called “CBS Local 2 News at 10 on Fox 11.” This newscast is replayed on Channel 2 and airs as “CBS Local 2 Night Side.”

This gives the anchors at Local 2 the opportunity to go home early where they can snuggle in bed and dream of greener pastures, presumably without the ubiquitous blue backdrop.

But wait, there’s even more. Every morning, News Channel 3 airs a morning show from 5 to 7. Then from 7 to 9, it’s replayed on Channel 11, where it’s called “News Channel 3 in the Morning on Fox 11.”

If you tune in on the weekend, both stations have different anchors, but use the same weatherman and sportscaster. And no matter which day you tune in, you’ll always find both stations using the same reporters.

Some have complained that the merger has led to a lack of diversity, while Local 2 management contends that it gives them more resources to cover the news. Both viewpoints are actually correct: The merger does give Local 2 more resources with which to cover the news, while at the same time becoming a clone of News Channel 3.

The issue is not the quality of the newscasts. Both stations do a surprisingly good job for a smaller market. It’s the duplication. If you were to watch both stations’ newscasts back-to-back, you would essentially be watching the same program, but with different anchors.

There is one bright spot, though: Every weeknight at 6:45, you can watch “Eye on the Desert.” The 15-minute program, anchored by Local 2’s weatherman, is the most informative arts and entertainment show in the Coachella Valley.

By the way, there is another TV player in town: The NBC affiliate, KMIR 6: The call letters were named after the historic El Mirador Hotel, where the station was originally located.

The two principal anchors on Local 2 and News Channel 3 are rumored to be golf buddies, which makes me wonder what they talk about on the golf course. Could they have inside information about their parent company’s plans to take over more stations? Could CNN be next? What about “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on News Channel 3.” Or perhaps “Anderson Cooper 360 on Local 2 News at 10 on Fox 11.”

But why stop there? They might as well go worldwide. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching “BBC World Service on News Channel 3 in the Morning.”

What would Walter Cronkite think? Or more importantly, what would Ted Baxter think? The future of serious journalism in the Coachella Valley is at stake.

The least they could do is use a different-colored backdrop for each station so you can remember which channel you’re watching. For instance, KESQ can keep the blue; Local 2 can use green; and Fox 11 can be red.

Or better yet, they can have a strobe light shining different colors and play disco music. I’d rather watch the anchors get up and dance than watch the same newscast on the same set all day long. After all, it’s all about diversity. We’ll be right back.

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