May 20, 2013
For Immediate Release
Contact: Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance
(510) 684-6853 (Cell), firstname.lastname@example.org (E-mail)
SMCCD Board Liquidates KCSM-TV
Board Votes to Cement Blackstone Deal, Objectors Threatened With Armed Security Guards
San Mateo – On Wednesday May 15th, three San Mateo Community College board trustees approved an unseen contract with Locuspoint Networks, a 99%-owned subsidiary of hedge firm The Blackstone Group, to liquidate the 48-year-old noncommercial TV station KCSM in a spectrum auction.
Members of the public objecting to the District’s lack of transparency, including former KRON-TV reporter and commentator Henry Tenenbaum, award-winning journalist and KAXT-TV principal Ravi Kapur, CO- based Media Stewards Project counsel Patrick Reilly and Media Alliance executive director Tracy Rosenberg, were threatened with removal by armed security prior to the board vote.
The District responded to public records requests for bid documents filed by Media Alliance and local newspaper the Palo Alto Daily Post (in March of 2013) by releasing censored materials with bid amounts and terms blacked out at 4:00pm on Friday May 10th. The redacted documents can be found on the Media Alliance website. A direct request by Henry Tenenbaum for a copy of the contract the Board was voting on was refused during Wednesday’s board meeting.
Media Alliance Executive Director Tracy Rosenberg, who has been attending District meetings since January of 2012 monitoring the attempt to liquidate the station, commented: “The District has been disingenous in failing to disclose meaningful information to station contributors, the campus community and the residents of the greater Bay Area.”
District staffer Jan Roecks submitted a brief written and oral report where she summarized the offers the District had received in general terms not subject to verification. The District claimed to have found fault with the bids from the Minority Televison Project and Public TV Financing, a divison of Independent Public Broadcasting, the project of former Free Speech TV co-founder John Schwartz, both of which proposed the continued operation of California’s 5th-largest public television signal.
District trustee Karen Schwarz commented that giving Ms. Rosenberg a second public comment slot after the staffer report was “the worst mistake she’s ever made”.
Locuspoint Networks, a 99% owned subsidiary of hedge firm The Blackstone Group, one of the largest financial speculation firms in the world, has been buying broadcast licenses (primarily commercial ones) at a sizable pace for the past two years anticipating a proposed reverse spectrum auction following the repacking of the broadcast market to sell TV spaces to the wireless industry.
KAXT principal and award-winning reporter Ravi Kapur questioned the District’s financial acuity, noting that Locuspoint Networks had offered him $15 million dollars for KAXT’s spectrum, which is Class B and measurably less valuable to the wireless industry. Roeck’s report indicated Locuspoint stood to receive 38% of the auction proceeds for an investment of less than $3 million dollars if the auction goes forward in 2015.
KCSM-TV operates on 60 Bay Area cable systems and has a broadcast signal that reaches 10 Bay Area counties, a potential audience of more than 6 million people. Over half a million people watch the station’s offering every week.
Media Stewards Project counsel Patrick Reilly added that the District’s interpretation of the California Public Records Act appeared problematic.