County takes steps to end MCTV contract, open channel to competitive bids

A subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors voted Friday to “give notice” to Midcoast Television (MCTV) that their contract with the county, which started in 1995, would not be renewed. The subcommittee is made up of Supervisor Rich Gordon and Supervisor Mark Church. If the five members of the full board approves the subcommittee action the MCTV contract will expire in September.

MCTV is the midcoast’s community access channel but has been derided in recent years for its low level of service, especially its lack of new programming, and its apparent indifference to community needs. It is governed by a seven-member board of directors presided over by President of the board and station manager Constance Mallach and her husband, station attorney and board Vice-President Michael Day. It has no community membership and operates with little public visibility.

Last year the San Mateo Grand Jury issued a report highly critical of MCTV’s performance. Earlier this year the station made no effort to warn the public of a tsunami, despite world-wide coverage of the threat and the closing of all local beaches.

The subcommittee also voted to begin development on allowing competitive bids for supplying community access television to the coastside. Recent technological upgrades as well as anticipated improvements to local infrastructure will allow stations over-the-hill to supply our local programming as well as the possibility that a new local group may form to supply our own programming. MCTV will be permitted to bid for the new contract, if they choose.

To transition from the old contract to the new one the subcommittee voted to offer MCTV a new, one-year contract, starting in September 2010. During that time the county would develop proposal requirements, solicit bids, and select a vendor to provide local programming in the future.

The subcommittee also expressed a desire to coordinate these changes with the City of Half Moon Bay which also contracts for community access programming with MCTV.

The full Board of Supervisors is expected to take action on the subcommittee’s recommendations at their regular meeting in April or May.

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