It's back to the basics for TV30, the Tri-Valley community television system that has been broadcasting here since 1976. Last week, the City Council of San Ramon voted 4-1 to quit funding the nonprofit and to move its community broadcasts to Contra Costa Television, a county-owned station in Martinez that broadcasts locally on Channel 27.
The council's action means that while San Ramon will save at least $75,000 a year in payments to TV30, the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore will have to boost their allocations by $25,000 or more.
At the same time, by advising TV30 Executive Director Melissa Tench-Stevens that it will end its financial support on June 30, San Ramon will likely no longer receive coverage of its government, civic, business and high school sports activities starting July 1.
Curiously, the recommendation to quit Tri-Valley Television and sign on with Contra Costa County came from Jeff Eorio, who retired two years ago as the city's Parks and Community Services director and was asked to study options for reducing TV30's impact on the city, which is faced with a $4.1 million deficit. Eorio is credited with rescuing TV30 from near bankruptcy more than four years ago by restructuring its management team.
At the time, former San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson backed the rescue plan and he joined the mayors from the three other Tri-Valley cities in assuming control of the TV30 board. Today, mayors Jennifer Hosterman of Pleasanton, John Marchand of Livermore and Tim Sbranti of Dublin fill those seats along with San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson, who will stay on the board until and if he's asked to leave.
But there was more to the dumping of TV30 than funding. In a nearly one-hour discussion of the issue, several councilmen slammed TV30 for barely covering San Ramon activities while producing more programs and commentaries favoring Livermore and Pleasanton. Saying that San Ramon always gets "the short stick" from TV30, Councilman Jim Livingstone said the station's management directive to "take it or leave it" on the funding requirements "is just garbage."
Longtime Councilman Dave Hudson, however, who cast the only vote against moving San Ramon into the CCTV sphere of broadcast influence, said the council's action is more about San Ramon's attachment to the Tri-Valley than with TV30. "Do we want to be part of the Tri-Valley, or not?" He talked about San Ramon dropping out of the Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, which the other Tri-Valley cities support, and also questioned San Ramon's participation in iGATE, a Tri-Valley technology coalition that is based in Livermore.
Clarkson retorted that it was the hotel business in San Ramon, not the city, which objected to paying room taxes to the CVB, which the local hotels don't believe supports them in return. As for iGATE, San Ramon continues to be a part of the enterprise, he said.
Moving San Ramon off TV30 programming will have a major impact on the three Tri-Valley cities left in the system, but even a greater impact for viewers in San Ramon who will no longer see their council meetings, civic activities and school sports on TV30's channels that include Channel 28 and Channel 29. The station's popular Mayor's Report will continue, but without Clarkson's report on public affairs in his city or how he views pressing issues such as transportation and housing that affects the Tri-Valley.
To us, San Ramon's divorce from TV30 and the local issues it covers is a loss for both the Tri-Valley and viewers in San Ramon.