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FCAT fails completely at serving area residents

Foothills Community Access Television is a little nonprofit company contracted by the city of Grass Valley to deliver public access television to the people of Nevada County. Unfortunately, FCAT has failed completely.

One year ago, I wrote a column titled “FCAT: TV in Trouble.” Then last fall, the organization made some changes, but most of the changes were negative. The biggest failure? FCAT has never provided a regularly scheduled forum for regular people to broadcast their opinions to others. This is the “open mike” part of public access, where a citizen just sits in front of a camera and talks to the public.

The second biggest failure? FCAT shows a lot of “blue screen” (no signal going out), schedules tapes badly, and clips programs with other programs. After seven years, they still don’t know how to operate the equipment and deliver the signal.



The third biggest failure? FCAT is completely disorganized as a business. Its board makes no policy. The hired staff gets no guidance. There has never been a budget. There are no attempts at fund-raising (kind of bizarre, since the organization gets only $5,000 a year from the city and is at the end of its series of $15,000 gifts from the county).

On Aug. 8, The Union ran two little puff pieces about FCAT under the headline “A vision in turmoil.” Wrong. There is no vision, just turmoil. That’s because FCAT has degenerated into a little club of wannabes trying to sustain a quaint ’60s-era concept of hippie underground television.




So what makes a good year at FCAT?:

— An FCAT past president falls off a truck during the taping of a parade and sues the city of Grass Valley.

— A vice president recruits a fellow from out of town to be executive director. The old board hires him, ignoring local applicants. He gets no job description or supervision, and after nearly a year in town, he announces to a member, “I don’t care about local culture.”

— The board continues its whimpering to the City Council and the public that they lack money, not competence.

— Producer Gil Dominguez continues selling commercial time for his shows on FCAT, ostensibly “non-commercial” public access TV.

— Member Buck Stovall is consistently refused copies of board minutes, despite showing up at board meetings and writing letters. He is forced to use the public comment portion of City Council meetings to express his dismay over FCAT. The station, oddly, also won’t run his tapes, claiming “copyright concerns,” “technical concerns,” or failure to fill out forms correctly.

— The PR person for FCAT writes columns in The Union, calling citizens and members “detractors.”

— Three board members resign.

— The newsletter editor resigns when FCAT concocts a plan to give the creative authority over the newsletter to some stranger in Santa Cruz.

— The FCAT Web page never improves.

— There are no attempts to educate the community to use the service it pays for.

— Instead of broadcasting local material, FCAT begins broadcasting two hours a day of the Amy Goodwin show, an out-of-town liberal talk show. The satellite feed is underwritten by two anonymous “producers.”

Councilman Steve Enos was appointed to look into these matters and find solutions. Unfortunately, he has ignored his oversight role and become an advocate for FCAT in its present form. This is not acceptable.

FCAT is sometimes called the city’s child. I will tell the city this: Your child is delinquent, brain-dead and on the respirator. Please help the public by canceling the FCAT contract so we can get a new organization in and have some real public access television in this town.

Barry Schoenborn is a technical writer, and a 14-year resident of Nevada County. His column appears the second Saturday of the month.


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