Thursday, May 16, 2013

Noncommercial KCSM-TV's days are numbered

Noncommercial KCSM-TV (over-the-air channel 60, cable 17) will be shutting down next year after 49 years of broadcasting from San Mateo.

The San Mateo County Community College District, which has been losing about $1 million a year on the station, agreed Wednesday to accept a bid from LocusPoint Networks, which wants to sell off the station’s spectrum space at an FCC auction next year.

The deal, which was outlined at Wednesday night’s meeting of the college district’s board, calls for LocusPoint to pay up to $3.6 million over the next four years in annual installments of $900,000.

The FCC is planning late next year to conduct an auction for TV spectrum space that broadcasters aren’t using. Companies like Sprint, Nextel, AT&T and Google are expected to buy the bandwidth, yielding a windfall for broadcasters who want to give up some or all of their spectrum space.

LocusPoint, owned by the private equity firm Blackstone Group, has bought stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay in anticipation of the auction.

Under the deal, LocusPoint would get 36.5% of the auction proceeds for KCSM’s bandwidth and the rest would go to the college district.

The college district received four bids for the station and a team of district employees recommended the LocusPoint offer.

The college district withheld the amounts of the bids prior to Wednesday night’s meeting, and only announced the numbers after the public hearing.

Former KRON 4 reporter Henry Tenenbaum, speaking during the public hearing, asked why the public was not able to see the offers and the bid amounts before the meeting.

"I'm concerned about the absolute lack of transparency," he said. "This issue is not going to go away."

Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance, an Oakland-based social justice and media advocacy nonprofit, also took issue with the secrecy surrounding the bids.

“This asset belongs to the public. You ask them first. What you’re doing is wrong,” Rosenberg said.

She said there were more lucrative options that would allow the noncommercial station to continue broadcasting.

District board member Dave Mandelkern said that the district’s job is to educate students, not run a TV station.

The board has been seeking a buyer for KCSM for more than a year so that it can use the funds to operate the station in the classroom. Under the deal, KCSM-TV would continue to operate until the spectrum space is sold at the auction. KCSM-FM is not being sold.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shameful behavior on the part of the college district. Haven't they heard of the Brown Act? It requires them to disclose a proposed deal 72 hours before a public meeting. Somebody should go after them in court.

Anonymous said...

Shameful indeed. Sadly, this is one more indication that the future holds little ethical integrity to save mankind from greedy corporations.