The public deserves a more complete explanation for the closure of NCTV/The Nevada County Digital Media Center.
The Cable Act, created over 20 years ago, gave the cable industry (Comcast and others) a monopoly on communications other than the old antennae (can you remember?).
To create this system, counties and cities agreed to provide easements and access, the trade-off being revenue from the companies to these jurisdictions.
Part of the funding was to be used for PEG (Public, Education and Government) channels on these airways, a way to counteract a monopoly.
Cable companies structured this arrangement, restricting most funding to capitol expenses (equipment) with the local governments providing funding for operations in cooperation with the local schools, public and businesses.
The purpose of these PEG stations is to provide citizen input, cultural and educational exposure and business promotion that were not commercial in nature.
The model sounded good except that most PEG stations struggled under the burden of raising funds for operations (rent and salaries). PEG stations in major cities fared better, as the revenue from a greater client base helped in funding.
When the recession hit, monies for education were cut and our “E” funding gradually disappeared. The local PEG station, NCTV, always supported our local nonprofits, the schools, the library and government programming but was often referred to as “the best kept secret in Nevada County.” Our local producers and members were very creative and committed to the “P” part of funding but could not keep up with the cost of operations.
Our business community, also hit by the recession, contributed less.
For example, our funding from the “G” part is $30,000 a year, but our rent alone is $36,000. Moving to our new location caused our reserves in capitol to decline, and our operational costs were always close to the bone.
Working with a volunteer engineer and executive director for most of the last year pushed us to the edge. Nonprofits and for-profit businesses cannot count on volunteers to run them.
Our board is a solid board of mostly business people who could see the writing on the wall. We could not afford to hire an engineer and executive director.
It would just be a matter of time before we were in debt, and the function of a board primarily is a fiduciary one, watching the finances and making sound decisions.
The recent decision to close the Media Center was highly regrettable but necessary.
Yes, the TV station is a gem, especially now that we are looking at new ways, through the Internet, to increase educational content with broadband connection of the schools, promotion of the arts and raising the level of exposure of our business community and the beauty of the area to bring our economy back and showcase our tremendous assets.
Losing the TV and Internet capabilities of the Media Center is a huge loss for the future of our community, but I am still hopeful that technology and our community, once known as Video Valley, will find creative ways to promote, educate and better inform ourselves and the world as to the value of life here in Nevada County.
Lew Sitzer is the volunteer executive director for the Nevada County Digital Media Center.