After struggling for years to eliminate the $1 million operating deficit for KCSM-TV, the San Mateo County Community College District is asking for proposals to purchase the station.
On Wednesday, the district posted the request on its website asking for proposals to purchase the station to be turned in by 2 p.m. Feb. 14. A final decision on the sale is expected in late April. The move came after nearly two years of struggling to cut the program’s $1 million operating deficit. A potential sale would include the station, its lease to Sutro Tower and the transmitter as well as equipment. Selling the television station, however, would not impact KCSM FM — the district radio station which will continue to operate as JAZZ 91.1, according to the district.
"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. Because KCSM-TV does not serve many of those students and because of its large operating deficit, the college district can no longer afford to operate the station,” according to the district’s official statement provided by spokeswoman Barbara Christensen.
KCSM-TV began operating in 1964 at its current location at the College of San Mateo. The non-commercial station broadcasts a variety of programs including television courses, the numbers for which have dropped in recent years in favor of online classes. Broadcasting, as a program, was on hiatus for a couple of years but returned more than a year ago with all new digital gear.
The challenge for elected officials has been the budget strain. In recent years, millions in cuts have been made. Programs with low enrollment were put on hiatus or discontinued and the board adopted a "core values” focus. As a result, programs not addressing the basic needs of students need to be self-funded, per the district’s direction. KCSM-TV is one of the programs which fell into this category.
General Manager Marilyn Lawrence called the decision to sell sad, adding many of those at the station went to the school.
"[The station] truly is an institution,” she said.
Lawrence worked to cover the deficit since given the direction but it has yet to cover all the costs.
"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. It is important to note that KCSM-TV’s deficit is funded by the college district’s general operating funds, which otherwise would be used to educate students,” according to the district statement.
According to the request for proposals, the bidder would gain access to the assets of KCSM-TV including a full power non-commercial transmission facility licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and take assignment of the station licenses. The purchase would include most of the equipment, which the buyer would be responsible for uninstalling, transporting and reinstalling. The bidder must be either a nonprofit corporation or another type of eligible entity permitted to operate a noncommercial television station.
A pre-bid meeting will be held at KCSM Jan. 10, prior to the Feb. 14 submission deadline. On March 15, district staff will meet with finalists. The board is expected to approve the sale April 25.
To read the full proposal request visit http://www.smccd.edu/purchasing then click on current bid announcements.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.