Mayors Jerry Thorne of Pleasanton, Tim Sbranti of Dublin and John Marchand of Livermore are in Washington, D.C. this week to push for federal support of efforts to allow cable television system fees to be used as needed for TV30, the Tri-Valley's community broadcast system.
The mayors also serve as board members of TV30 and are seeking legislative action in Sacramento to relax constraints now on public, educational and government (PEG) fees that are assessed to each cable subscriber. According to state law, these funds must be used only for facilities and equipment for the production of PEG channel programming.
The mayors and TV30 Executive Director Melissa Tench-Stevens want the rules changed to allow those funds for operating expenses, a change that would be especially helpful to TV30, where operating costs and programming far exceed the need for new equipment.
Historically, operating and capital funding for Tri-Valley Community Television (TVCTV) had been provided by PEG funds collected from viewers through their Comcast and AT&T subscriptions. But in 2012, a new State Assembly bill called DIVCA stripped operating costs from the funding. The three cities have been making up the difference ever since.
TVCTV has been broadcasting since 1976. It now broadcasts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to a population well over 300,000 people who have access to its signal locally. Today, the system's broadcast channels 28 (education), 29 (government meetings) and 30 (diversified programs of interest to the Tri-Valley) can be seen on any computer or mobile device, with video-on-demand also available at the station's website, www.tv30.org.
Although TV30 does not receive A.C. Nielsen rating results, between Jan. 1, 2013 and this past Jan. 31, the station had more than 266,000 views on its website. The system's coverage of City Council and school board meetings in the three Tri-Valley cities has brought increasingly wide acclaim from viewers. Former Pleasanton Mayor Tom Pico used to talk about phone calls and messages he received after council meetings from many who didn't live here but regularly watched those broadcasts.
Tench-Stevens wants to boost the system's outreach and programming. Her staff regularly produces a minimum of 30 original local programs a month. TV30's sportscasters covered football and basketball games at Amador Valley, Dublin, Foothill, Granada and Livermore high schools and this year will be producing numerous election specials, all at substantial operating costs. This programming is not available anywhere else. That's why freeing up the 1% of cable subscriber fee revenue is so important to the continued growth of TVCTV.
Since the 1% fee, which brings in more revenue than the old 50-cent fee once charged by cable subscribers to support community television systems, is so vital to sustain these quasi-public operations across the country, religious groups that also operate these types of stations have joined in freeing up the funds. Catholic bishops, Baptists in the south, Mormons and others are backing revenue-distribution changes because many of the ways they speak to their constituents is through public access television.
The hope is that when the Tri-Valley mayors -- who also govern TV30 -- make their rounds on Capitol Hill starting Monday, their cohesive support for unrestricted community television funding will gain action in Congress and also in state legislatures, including ours in Sacramento.