Is MCTV worth saving? Part II: Follow the money

Editorial

Posted by on Mon, April 7, 2008

Chart by Barry Parr

I didn’t learn much in business school, but I did learn that if an employee is not behaving in the best interests of the organization, it’s a pretty good bet his compensation program is structured to encourage it.

When you look at MCTV’s budget, you can begin to see why they don’t talk to the community or even listen. MCTV’s not returning my messages, so this is my personal analysis of their tax returns.

Three quarters of MCTV’s income comes from grants from the city of Half Moon Bay and from San Mateo County. The city and county get the money from cable franchise fees and pass it on to MCTV.  Coastsiders pay the franchise fee as a separate line item on their Comcast bills. But it’s not earmarked for MCTV. The city and county could choose to keep the money, or give it to someone else. With the City Council and Board of Supervisors providing three-quarters of MCTV’s revenue, MCTV’s existence depends on keeping them happy.

MCTV’s only other significant source of revenue is what they call "government grants". This appears to be the fees that local boards pay MCTV for taping and cablecasting their meetings. But it’s unclear why MCTV is unwilling to run tapes of meetings they didn’t produce, since the income from taping doesn’t appear to be much more than the expense of volunteers, staff time, and materials. Running these tapes might free up staff time and equipment for something more interesting.

What MCTV calls "direct public support" appears to be what you and I would call advertising revenue.  And MCTV made about $4,000 on advertising in fiscal 2005.

Most startling is that less than 1% of MCTV’s revenue comes from membership dues. If MCTV had to go to the community every year meet its budget, the way that KQED must for example, you could expect them to be a lot more responsive.

If the board of MCTV were elected by the members, as it is at KQED, you could expect them to listen.

[CORRECTION: MCTV’s board is elected by its members.]


Barry,

Thanks for the investigation and article.

A slight simplification of the pie charts is that the local governments are paying near the cost of the expenses and salaries of the people actually doing the work to record and broadcast their meetings.  The rest of the revenue is mostly from The City of HMB and San Mateo County(SMC) public funds going to the Executive Director, volunteer expenses and office expenses.

The local government agencies should treat the video recording of meetings as a fee for service.  Those agencies very well could afford to pay the people doing the work of recording the meetings directly and have a say in how it is done and who owns the recording.  So, what are HMB City and SMC getting for the roughly $85K of public funds they are giving to Ms. Malach and her clubhouse “non-profit”?

They seem rather stagnant, though they have been running a few new programs in the past week or so (at least new to me), including an ad or program about Sonrisas Dental Clinic. Perhaps someone at the station is reading these posts?  The MCTV website is abysmal, most of it “Under Construction”. No program schedule listed. A quote from their History page notes: “Creativity is encouraged, and the content restraints placed on the producers are clearly explained in MCTV’s guidelines.”  Does that just mean not to offer anything TOO creative?

Vince, one of Connie’s arbitrary and capricious “rules” is that MCTV will only run content recorded by MCTV employees using MCTV equipment.  For quite a while GSD paid one of our own employees to do the recording and just paid MCTV a $50 playback fee.  When PMFPD was being asked to video their meetings and they were griping about the cost, I suggested that PMFPD do it GSD’s way.  Connie’s immediate response was to change the rules.  This pretty much proves that it’s a profit center for MCTV.

Oh, and by the way, the rule only applies when it suits Connie to apply it.  I can name at least one ongoing exception which is allowed because it benefits MCTV to ignore their own arbitrary and capricious rules when it suits them.

I spoke too soon!  The MCTV website has been upgraded & re-vamped, and looks very good. There is also a more comprehensive schedule.  Now if they could just allow non-MCTV additions to their program line-up, it would be great!

Does anyone know when Comcast has to go before the City Council to renew their contract? Wouldn’t that be the time to make changes to MCTV?