SPRING UPDATE FOR KCSM-TV:
CHARGE: Some members of the public have alleged that the District is conducting a “secret sale” of KCSM-TV without adequate public input.
Over the past four years, the Board has extensively discussed the need to stem the financial losses at KCSM-TV, which were running in excess of $1.1M each year—funds which otherwise would be used to educate students. (Please see the paragraphs below to learn more about this deficit). A number of alternatives were explored during this time, but none produced the savings needed for the station to be self supporting.
In June 2011, after holding at least ten public hearings on the matter with extensive public participation and comment, the Board of Trustees made the difficult decision to sell KCSM-TV. A Request for Proposal (RFP) process was initiated and the District identified the assets and equipment to be sold and other criteria needed from a successful bidder. For example, according to FCC guidelines, the successful bidder must meet FCC rules for assignment of a non-commercial license as well as requirements for local representation and educational programming. FCC rules and regulations specifically prohibit the seller from imposing conditions or control over the buyer regarding operations of the station in the future, including programming content. The RFP for the sale of KCSM-TV was released on December 7, 2011 and was extensively advertised. Six bids were submitted on February 14, 2012.
Based on the evaluation criteria stated in the RFP, the District asked two of the six bidders to submit their best and final offer, as called for in the RFP. These offers are currently being evaluated by the District. Once the best and final offer is determined, a recommendation will be made to the Board. At this point it is expected that a recommendation to the Board of Trustees to approve the sale of the assets of and the transfer of the FCC licenses associated with KCSM-TV will be made on April 25, 2012. At that meeting, the Board will again listen to public comments before making a decision and could decide to postpone a decision if it believes that additional time is needed for public comment. Finally, the FCC requires a mandatory 30-day public comment period before the FCC will approve any proposed transfer of the station license.
The Board has been and remains committed to complete transparency in the potential sale of KCSM-TV. Public comment is welcome at any District Board meeting whether or not the item to be discussed is on the agenda.
CHARGE: A recent newpaper article charged that the members of the Board of Trustees "want pull the plug on KCSM without involving the public in the decision to sell the station."
For the last several years, the College District Board of Trustees has directed the KCSM General Manager to make every effort to eliminate the $1,100,000 annual operating deficit of KCSM-TV. It is important to note that this deficit is funded by the College District’s general operating funds, which otherwise would be used to educate students.
As most are aware, public colleges and universities have been hard hit by the budget crisis in California. Our own District lost $20million over the past three years and we are anticipating more cuts this year and next. In response, our Board adopted a “Core Values” statement that is guiding our budget decisions. With extremely tight resources, the Board has decreed that the Colleges must concentrate on serving transfer and career/technical students, as well as basic skills students who are preparing for college-level work.
At one time KCSM-TV served students by broadcasting college courses. With the advent of the internet and the availability of online courses, this delivery mode is no longer in demand. In the last 5 years, student demand for TV courses fell by 93% while student demand for online courses increased by 115%. Consequently, because KCSM-TV no longer serves many students and is carrying a large operating deficit, the College District can no longer afford to operate the TV station.
The editorial asserts that District trustees did not involve the public in the decision to liquidate the station, which is incorrect. The College District Board has held numerous public discussions about KCSM-TV over the past several years, including eight public in-depth Study Sessions and Information Reports on this topic. The Board has been very transparent with respect to its concerns about the ongoing viability of KCSM-TV, and has thoroughly reviewed all options— all in full view of the public.
There is no doubt that KCSM-TV provides a valuable service to the public and the Board has made it clear that selling the station license is a last resort. Over the last several years KCSM-TV has cut its budget to a bare minimum, implemented revenue enhancement strategies, and has actively sought partnerships with other educational and public institutions as well as public support. Despite these efforts, the TV station continues to lose money. KCSM-TV drains $1.1 million a year away from classrooms.
Again, the primary mission of our community colleges is to prepare students for transfer to four-year intuitions, to provide workforce training, and to provide basic skills education.
Due to rising tuition and class cutbacks in the UC and CSU systems, our community colleges are inundated with students, in fact we had 14,490 students on wait list for classes this Fall. This, combined with State budget reductions and growing demand for workforce training for displaced workers, has strained College budgets and has forced us to eliminate activities outside our Core mission.
A $1,100,000 KCSM-TV deficit translates to approximately 120 course sections or 4800 classroom seats. Sadly, we are confronted with making very difficult choices and we must give the highest priority to those activities that serve students in order to fulfill our primary mission.