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California's 5th Largest Public TV Station May be Scrapped for Wireless Spectrum

by Tracy RosenbergMedia Alliance

Update 4/27: Despite a legal letter sent earlier this month, the San Mateo Community College District refuses to release information on the bidding process to either Media Alliance or the Palo Alto Daily Post, which also submitted a public records request. The District stated it was not in their "interests" to release information to the academic community, station members and the public about the fate of the station.

The District has identified a "top bidder", believed to be Locus Point Networks http://locuspointnetworks.com/, a for-profit wireless company, and does not appear to be engaging in negotiations with other bidders, who include Free Speech TV co-founder John Schwartz and several other community groups. The District declared its hope to cash in on the spectrum auction at previous board meetings, which means an end to public television broadcasting and seems poised to do exactly that, despite letters of protest by state senator Leland Yee and congressperson Anna Eshoo.

Please come to the next board meeting on May 15th at 6:00pm at 3401 CSM Drive in San Mateo (near Belmont Canyon). We'll try to arrange car pools if needed. You can write to the trustees at trustees@smccd.edu or use the link below.

Profiteering off the destruction of public media is wrong and the District has several bidders willing to pay millions of dollars for the privilege of operating the station. This is nothing more than simple greed and the abdication of public service and accountability to stakeholders for the survival of a 48-year old public asset.

Update 3/17: Public Records requests filed by Media Alliance and the Palo Alto Daily Post have been declined by the San Mateo Community College District. District employee Barbara Christenson wrote "As I stated before, the District will be able to disclose information upon completion of negotiations" in response to both public records requests.

Update 3/11: The 2nd KCSM bidding process ended on February 15, 2013. Media Alliance has placed a second public records request so the nature of the bids is transparent to the public. We'll post them here if the records request is successful. At Denver, at the National Conference on Media Reform, we'll be co-hosting a salon discussion on spectrum speculation and public media. More and more local politicians have been expressing concern at the prospect of KCSM-TV becoming wireless telephone scrap metal after almost half a century of public service. Please help embolden them to intervene by sending an email expressing your desire for public media to stay in public hands.

Send emails via this link: http://salsa.salsalabs.com/o/1734/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12789


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At a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday November 14th, the San Mateo Community College District, which operates 3 community colleges (Skyline College, Canada College and the College of San Mateo), discussed the fate of the noncommercial television license they have owned since 1964 - KCSM TV. KCSM's signal reaches 10 Bay Area counties and is broadcast on 60 municipal cable systems throughout the Bay Area.

Media Alliance Press Release of November 16, 2012

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November 16, 2012

For Immediate Release

Contact: Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance Tel: (510) 684-6853 Email: tracy@media-alliance.org

California's 5th Largest Public TV Station May be Scrapped for Wireless Spectrum

San Mateo Community College District Board Discusses Auctioning Off 48-year-old Non-Commercial Broadcasting License

San Mateo-At a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday November 14th, the San Mateo Community College District, which operates 3 community colleges (Skyline College, Canada College and the College of San Mateo), discussed the fate of the noncommercial television license they have owned since 1964 - KCSM TV. KCSM's signal reaches 10 Bay Area counties and is broadcast on 60 municipal cable systems throughout the Bay Area.

A request for proposals at the end of 2011 attracted six bidders, but at the end of October, the Board of Trustees formally rejected all the bidders,
stating the two top bidders were unable to complete a sale. According to the District, FM Media, a division of the public media brokers Public Radio Capital, were unable to secure financing and San Mateo Community Television, an affiliate of Independent Public Media, a initiative to revitalize public media spearheaded by Free Speech TV co-founder John Schwartz, were unable to meet local control requirements.

Bay Area community media advocates Media Alliance filed a public records request in April 2012 and after a six month delay, secured the bid documents for public review. They are available on the Media Alliance website.

The Trustees reviewed a presentation on a possible spectrum auction by the Federal Communications Commission, a process that is entering a rule making process. The auction would repurpose broadcast spectrum and auction off unneeded spectrum to wireless companies. Broadcasters have excess spectrum after the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

The Community College Board proposed auctioning off all the station's spectrum to wireless companies and issued an RFP searching for a for-profit partner to subsidize the station's operating costs in full for the period leading up to the possible auction (anywhere from 18 months to 4+ years) and then split the proceeds after the station was shut down.

Media Alliance Executive Director Tracy Rosenberg expressed distress over the District speculating on non-commercial assets. She comments "This license was given to the College of San Mateo in 1964 - at no cost - in order to operate a public service. That is the purpose. We should find a way for that purpose to continue".

Rosenberg added that a review of the bid documents left her with some questions as to why the District refused the bid from San Mateo Community Television for $5.8 million dollars.

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