Cash woes for local TV station | TheUnion.com

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Cash woes for local TV station

Nevada County’s lone public access television station fears for its survival if negotiations that are currently underway and that could keep the 10-month-old station afloat do not find quick a resolution, county officials say.

The viability of Nevada County TeleVision is pinned to receiving money from Comcast, the county’s predominant cable service provider. A federal mandate requires Comcast to provide for one local public access channel, along with training and money, in exchange for a franchise agreement that essentially keeps the competition away, explained NCTV’s Executive Director Lew Sitzer.

The negotiations to renew Comcast’s franchise agreements with Nevada City, Grass Valley and Nevada County that began in late October have been going slower than anticipated, however, and NCTV could suffer if negotiations continue to be drawn out, said Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer. His office has been footing the bill to keep the station alive, he said. McAteer is on the negotiating team along with Nevada City City Manager Mark Miller and county Chief Information Officer Steve Monaghan.

“We had all shook hands in agreement to be done by Super Bowl Sunday. We are far from that. Comcast has been dragging its heels,” McAteer said, adding that the representatives from Comcast have canceled several meetings and otherwise tried to delay negotiations.

But the delays come as no surprise to McAteer, who called this a “typical ploy” of Comcast to avoid paying its bills because as long as there is no agreement, Comcast will continue operating under the old contract.

The old contract provided the public access station $30,000 per year, an amount Sitzer said is woefully shy of what is needed, especially considering that overhead costs alone are $15,000 and that there are strong hopes for expanding from one to three channels in the near future.

McAteer said that the Superintendent of Schools office has been providing much of the funds for NCTV, paying $250,000 in the past year to keep the station working. It is hoped that Comcast will give the station $300,000 a year to operate. This amount is typical of similar agreements Comcast has made with other cities, such as Santa Rosa and San Jose, McAteer said.

“The county Superintendent of Schools cannot afford to subsidize the TV station,” Sitzer said, “(Comcast) claims to be a partner in education, a partner in community involvement, and they need to handle that responsibility.”

Comcast could not be reached for comment Sunday.