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



San Mateo-At a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday November 14 2012,  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.kcsm

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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