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In D.C., the $4 Million HD Studio that Never Was

What do you do with a $4 million HD television studio that was never built? That’s one of the perplexing questions being asked of the local government of Washington, D.C. after the failed contract was reported in an audit.

The report cited the D.C. Office of Cable Television for “violating procurement policies” by issuing a sole-source city contract to a new company without adequate assurances that the start-up firm could build the new HD facility. The project, which was axed before any construction actually began, did not end before the non-compete contractor had purchased more than $3 million in HD equipment that, alas, was never installed, according to The Washington Post.

The initial steps to build the studios were begun under a previous city administration, which was criticized in the inspector general’s audit for wanting to upgrade the city’s TV service of government channels to HD in the first place. The IG found that virtually no neighboring jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland had upgraded their own facilities to HD, and claimed that providing HD government services to D.C. residents were not the best use of taxpayer money.

Meanwhile, the $3 million in HD equipment remains in its original packaging (apparently now to be used for another HD facility at some lucky local high school) — but another $1 million was spent for the design of the new studio that was not built.

For its part, the contractor (which later changed its name to Broadcast Management Group) severely criticized the IG report, saying it provided “political cover” for the new mayor back in 2007, Adrian Fenty. The firm said it was very much in favor of ending the project bogged down after the new administration took office, and it vowed to “never again do business with D.C.”