FCAT ordered to sign off
The Grass Valley City Council has pulled the plug on Foothills Community Access Television, giving western Nevada County’s local station 30 days to cease operation.
FCAT will fade to black two weeks before the public-access station is scheduled to be resurrected March 1 under the new oversight of Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer. However, the station’s current financial woes could put McAteer’s planned takeover in jeopardy.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to kill the station after learning it was bleeding money and may have to sell equipment to pay an anticipated $20,000 debt. The city has a legal obligation to give the station 30 days’ notice, however, it plans to appeal to station directors to shut down earlier.
McAteer said he was shocked and appalled by the size of the station’s debt, which he said he learned of Tuesday. He said he won’t absorb the debt nor assume a station devoid of equipment.
” I just learned this today,” McAteer said Tuesday. “All I know is … the deal isn’t the deal. This changes everything.”
McAteer agreed to assume control of and revitalize the cash-strapped public-access station. He is pumping $50,000 into the station’s new facility and paying an executive director a hearty $35,000 to $45,000 salary. After learning the amount of FCAT’s debt and that equipment may be sold to pay for its losses, McAteer said he’s not sure he can follow through with the takeover of the station for fear of being handed “an empty box.”
Members of the FCAT board of directors said it’s not a new practice to sell equipment to get out of the red. They have been forced to auction equipment previously when the station was short $400 rent or lacked money to pay salaries, FCAT Operations Committee Chair Lou Meyer said.
“We can’t just go handing stuff off and be in debt. The reality of having to sell equipment … of course we will,” Meyer said. “We don’t want to, but we have to cover the costs we’ve incurred.”
The station’s actual debt is about $4,000 including delinquent utility bills, and a $3,000 promissory note, among other things. The $20,000 estimate includes payroll expenses, rent, supplies, closing costs and $1,500 for an upcoming media conference.
Today is pay day for the station, and there isn’t enough money in the bank to cover the expense, Executive Director Miles Everett said. It shouldn’t be a surprise the station is broke, Everett said, since the station has been soliciting local governments for funding for more than a year.
The station receives $5,000 annually from Comcast, which is passed through the City Council, and Nevada County contributes $15,000, of which the county still owes $3,750, FCAT Treasurer Patty Kenyon said.
“I wish they’d given us the help they’re giving the Superintendent of Schools,” Kenyon said.
Nevada City, Grass Valley and Nevada County have agreed to give McAteer $30,000 annually.
As far as FCAT agreeing to go off air before the newly imposed Feb. 13 deadline, FCAT president Eric Tomb said he’s not sure that’s best for the community.
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