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KCSM-TV Faces Financial Demise

SAN MATEO, CALIF.: KCSM-TV, a one-time PBS member station owned by the San Mateo Community College District, may have to be sold. The Bay Area public station needs to come up with $1 million by Jan. 1 to close a budget shortfall. The San Jose Mercury News reported this week that KCSM has raised just $6,000 so far.

KCSM, established in 1964, claims to be the “only television training center in Northern California based in a full-power, professional broadcast station.” The station’s audience numbers around 800,000, and it serves 10,000 students and 26 community colleges in the area through distance-learning programs. All of which would be jeopardized if KCSM goes down, General Manager Marilyn Lawrence pointed out.

“If we don’t hit our goal, the [San Mateo County Community College District] could make the decision to sell the TV station,” she told the Mercury News. “It would mean there won’t longer be an independent voice in the Bay Area.”

KCSM- has experienced the same fund-raising struggles that have plagued public stations across the nation in the last year, with donors under economic pressures of their own. The fact that California has run out of money is an additional hit.

“California state budget cuts have greatly impacted the college district,” KCSM’s Web site states. “Under-enrolled classes have been canceled, Student Services discontinued and the district has been forced to eliminate all financial support of their ancillary services, like KCSM-TV. We have responded by drastically reducing our staff and slashing expenses. We have found incredible sources of fascinating new and affordable programming. We must, however, raise additional revenue to be able to continue to provide great non-commercial educational programming to the Bay Area.”

The station cut around $800,000 from its budget, including its PBS membership and the corresponding programming line-up, the Mercury News said. It needs to cut another $800,000 for the 2010-11 budget year. The community college district board would decide within the coming months whether to sell the TV station. They would prefer to keep it, but must come up with $7 million in cuts across the school district.

Leasing the station’s bandwidth could be one alternative, Lawrence told the Mercury News. She estimated leasing could bring in from $750,000 to $1.3 million a year, and that she had “four or five potential clients.”

KCSM-TV broadcasts 24/7 with a 1.5 million watt signal covering San Francisco and the surrounding communities, and carried on local cable systems.

“KCSM-TV’s survival may hinge on fundraiser,” is available at the Mercury News.