KCSM-TV about to be sold, buyer unknown

Daily Post Staff Writer

The San Mateo County Community College District Board, which has been silent for months about the botched sale of its noncommercial TV station KCSM that cost the district $114 million, will meet today (Sept. 6) to approve selling the station — although there’s no word on who is buying the money-losing channel.

Word of the proposed sale came at 4:45 p.m. yesterday (Sept. 5) when administrators posted an agenda for a special meeting of the board scheduled for 5 p.m. today at the College of San Mateo.

The agenda is cryptic. Under the word “recommendation” it simply says, “Approval of the sale of KCSM-TV.”

But it doesn’t say who is buying the station or how much they would pay the district, which is funded largely with property taxes and student fees. The proposed sale contract was not provided.

Mitchell Bailey, the spokesman for the district, did not return the Post’s messages regarding the agenda. The Post also called all of the board members and only Richard Holober answered the phone. He told the Post to contact Bailey.

Blunder covered up

College district officials have been silent about KCSM-TV after an administrator, Vice President Jan Roecks, failed to enter a bid to sell the station’s spectrum space in an FCC online auction on Nov.
15, 2016. By not entering a bid at the correct time, Roecks passed up an opportunity to sell the station’s bandwidth for $114 million, according to a lawsuit filed against the district.

Roecks told her boss, Chancellor Ron Galatolo, about the blunder, but for months Galatolo apparently kept the news from the college district’s elected board and a company that had provided financing to KCSM-TV in exchange for an interest in the proceeds from such a sale. That company, LocusPoint Networks, an arm of the Wall Street investment house Blackstone Group, has sued the district over the botched sale and the district has countersued LocusPoint.

The only other items on the agenda for tonight’s meeting are a closed-door discussion of the two lawsuits followed by a closed-door session titled, “Employee discipline, dismissal, release.” It doesn’t say who will be getting the ax.

Meeting’s legality questioned

Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of San Francisco-based Media Alliance, a media and social justice advocacy group, said that the college district’s agreement with LocusPoint requires the sale of KCSM-TV if the auction fails.

Rosenberg questioned whether the board could le- gally vote to sell the station at tonight’s meeting with- out providing more information beforehand on the identity of the buyer.

“Considering that it’s a million dollar public asset, I think that would almost have to constitute a Brown Act violation to vote on a sale without releasing the information about (who was buying),” she said in an
email to the Post. Also, the district hasn’t announced that the station
was for sale after the botched FCC auction. Typically, a government agency will put an asset up for bids be- fore making a decision about selling. That’s to ensure that the government agency gets the best price.

Since tonight’s session is described as a “special meeting,” under the Brown Act the district must notify the public of the meeting 24 hours before it is supposed to take place. The agenda for the meeting was sent out yesterday at 4:45 p.m., just 15 minutes shy of the 24-hour requirement.

No previous public discussion

According to meeting minutes and meeting agendas since the Post broke the news about the botched sale of KCSM-TV, the sale has not been discussed in open meeting, only in closed-door sessions regarding the litigation of the station.

The district had decided to sell the TV station in 2011, which was reported to have been losing $800,000 a year at the time. The district did not want to fund the station, but if it took the station off-air, the district would have lost its FCC license.

LocusPoint and the district entered into an agreement where the company would pay the district $900,000 a year to keep the TV station on the air, and get 36.5% of whatever the district got in the FCC auction.

In April, both LocusPoint and the district filed lawsuits against one another. The district’s suit also pointed the finger at Pricewatershouse-Coopers, an international accounting firm, which was hired by the district to ensure they completed the FCC bidding process correctly.