With the contract between the popular Millbrae Community Television and the city already expired, the group is petitioning to return to pre-economic downturn funding levels and wants a longer-term contract finalized sooner.
In 2008, the funding for the nonprofit that’s provided cablecasting services to the city since 1997 known as MCTV was cut from $86,040 to its level of $76,534 for operating costs when it expired Dec. 30, 2013. The council will decide Tuesday, March 25 whether to extend the current expired agreement until June 30, while reengaging in negotiations in May.
“We’re faced with a lot of cuts,” said Mayor Wayne Lee. “In the past the City Council just gave them (MCTV) whatever they wanted and we need to find out what their finances are.”
Randy Sahae, MCTV’s first general manager and current production manager, chief engineer, manager of customer relations, said it’s a fairly small budget item and the group has worked side by side with the city to help them achieve its mission for 17 years. She fears the city wants to push the decision back until June to see if the city’s $1.5 million annual fire assessment tax passes. She notes MCTV took a 7 percent cut, while city employees took 5 percent cut during the recession. In 2012, city employees had these reinstated to their original levels.
“It seems like an awful lot of work to come back again in two months,” she said. “I hope they agree to a contract that extends past June 2014. The value of MCTV doesn’t change whether the fire assessment passes or not. [MCTV] has historically been underpaid. It would be nice to move in the direction of rectifying this inequality.”
If funding is not restored to the 2008 levels, the organization may not be able to sustain itself, Sahae said. Currently, MCTV has less than a three-month operating reserve, she said.
MCTV’s mission is to develop community access television for the benefit of the residents of Millbrae and facilitate the growth of a medium, which will provide education and public service programming. There’s one full-time staff member and three part-time workers. MCTV also sells professional services to the cities of Brisbane, San Carlos and San Mateo to generate revenue. It can also fundraise to receive additional funding to cover its operating expenses since it’s a nonprofit.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Marge Colapietro said she will remain open-minded until she hears the presentation from MCTV and hears from speakers at the meeting.
“For a long, long time, it has been an essential part of our community,” she said. “It serves a great purpose in our community. It’s a great resource and a link in communication for residents who can’t come to meetings or community events.”
In addition to the added funding, MCTV is seeking a larger office space. It is now housed in a 240-square-foot office, said MCTV General Manager Andy Pitman.
“They’re in the midst of getting the fire assessment passed, so there’s hesitation about spending extra money, but it’s not a huge amount of money,” he said. “We’re operating far below what’s required to run a television station. The reason we’re able to do so is people here have agreed to work at levels below market pay and we have had great deal of support from people working at this station for a long time. We get significantly less funding from the city than comparable community access stations across the country.”
The meeting takes place 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 25 at Council Chambers, 621 Magnolia Ave. in Millbrae.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105