City of Fort Bragg claims they can produce Public Access Television cheaper

The City of Fort Bragg and Mendocino TV entered into a contract that was to, build and administer for 1 year, a new public access broadcast system 1n 2015. That contract was for $50,000 for 1 year.

There was an additional contract for $20,000 to design and engineer the system. When this contract came to an end Scott Schneider from the City of Fort Bragg and Mendocino TV had a meeting to discuss the future of the television station.

The status of public access television in Mendocino County was in chaos last year.

Fostering an Engaged Community

Mendocino Access Television, the PEG entity serving Ukiah Valley, was having difficulty keeping alive with the amount of franchise fees passed on to them. The director, Erica Cooperider had resigned. The County had hired a consultant to investigate the possibility of the County IT department take over the local public access station. The IT Dept. is currently performing the task of recording the County meetings and posting them on Youtube.

We were aware of that chaos and, to add to the confusion, The County of Mendocino had not disbursed any franchise fees to the City of Fort Bragg since 2013 and the amount owed to the City was in dispute.

Scott never was planning to reimburse us for , what we thought, was just a delayed payment.

He just took the franchise fees and put them into his internal budget. How sleazy!

Mendocino TV was prepared to continue the $50,000 per year contract however Scott explained that the City’s franchise reimbursements from Comcast customers, within the City Limits, was all that was in the budget. “I am actively working on the whole PEG project,” he said and, “I couldn’t pay more than $2500 a month from the City’s franchise reimbursements” (from Comcast customers within the City Limits). Until the City received The County’s share of the franchise fees, “the money wasn’t in the 2016 – 2017 budget.” Said, Scott.

With the understanding that the City would have more money to work with by the next year when the County makes their Franchise Fee payments to the City and after an emotional plea from Linda Ruffing begging Mendocino TV to continue the administration of the contract, did I agree to a 1 year extension, to be reviewed monthly, with each party able to withdraw with a 30 day notice. To be renegotiated before June 2017 or as soon as the franchise fees become known.

In March I met with Scott to discuss the future of the PEG. He brought with him a budget breakdown of the franchise fees. This was the only breakdown of franchise fees and came from Scott Schneider’s breakdown of City of Fort Bragg expenses that was used when negotiating the franchise to the County of Mendocino.

 Comcast incomeCounty incomeContracted ServicesStaff time – IT AdminStaff Time - GranicusEquipment costsBalance

We noted that the Staff time was fictional since we performed 100% of the work and administration. The staff time was supposed to bill to the IT department as a part of the Granicus grant, not PEG money! All staff did was push a button. Staff also hadn’t built the web page as agreed upon, hadn’t sent out the survey as required in the Franchise Agreement nor encoded one single show successfully for use as a program on channel 3 in 2 years, including City Council Meetings. Nothing, nada, zilch. Zero interaction except for the myriad dispatches to reestablish the switch after Mateo forgot to push it, again, after the City Council meetings, (Meetings that are cringe worthy to watch due to bad lighting, horrible audio or non-existent audio)

What this spreadsheet should have looked like was:

 City of FB Franchise FeeCounty Franchise FeeFranchise Fee TotalContracted Services w / Mendocino TVStaff TimeEquipment costsBalance
15/1638040.152155659595.1550000$0(IT Xpns)10380.27-785.12
16/1735051.161437149422.1630000$0(IT Xpns)67.0919355.07

The difference between the first spreadsheet and the second is the exclusion of the ‘Staff Time’ expenses. A $70,305.90 difference!

There was no reason to include ’Staff Time’ in the report since those were IT expenses. This blending of revenue from Comcast franchise fees and expenses from Granicus IT services into one budget breakdown, like what happened here, was what we were afraid would happen when we turned down their offer to shoot and record their meetings. Franchise Fees shouldn’t support non-Comcast services. It is a separate charge that every subscriber pays for. Not the satellite and internet users. Cable TV only. To allow any agency and person that produced a video to offset their production expenses straight from the PEG’s operating budget is insane. I want to be reimbursed for all of the extra shows I delivered outside of the contract, which has no provisions to provide ANY content. All shows were donated at great effort and expense. To get paid commensurate to what Scott billed would be !)) to 1. He and his department did nothing!! (Except deliver poorly produced, unintelligible, distorted and out of lip synch.

The City of Fort Bragg is actually $18,569.95 ahead on Franchise fees with no accounting for the previous year’s 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 franchise fees.

Now if you look at the staff report to the City Council, all that would be necessary, according to the staff report, to take over the PEG responsibilities would be an increase in 20 hours to their existing IT staff resulting in a $9000 surplus. What about staff time being billed against that revenue in the previous revenue / expense breakdown?:

  • Staff time- PEG Admin,
    • 15/16 – $16,444.40
    • 16/17 – $14,216.30
  • Staff Time – Livestream
    • 15/16 – $17,265.60
    • 16/17 – $22,380.60

Mendocino TV presented a proposal to the Ad Hoc committee with significantly expanded services effectively performing as a full service PEG station with:

  • Public Hours
  • A dedicated employee
  • Enhanced online directory services
  • Classes and production facilities available at reduced fees to Comcast subscribers.
  • Up to 100 hrs a month of original programming from “Timberwolves Football” to “The Abalone Hunter” to “Building Healthy Communities” etc.

From Scott Schneider’s Staff Report

Administrative Services Department staff has the experience, qualifications, enthusiasm and programming expertise necessary for a successful PEG channel(s). The one necessary change required for staff to administer the PEG would be to expand the Technology AV Technician (TAT) classification from a part-time (50%) position to a full-time position. With the recent significant increase in meetings being live-streamed, social media activity and overall community engagement online, the TAT’s current time is fully allocated.

  • If the City administers the PEG, future projects, initiatives and programming will be more flexible due to the administration of the PEG not being subject to a contract with a specific and possibly limited scope of work.(?)
  • The additional 20 hours per week allocated to the TAT position would provide the necessary time to not only continue administration of the PEG but to also increase online and broadcasted activities in order to further engage the community with ongoing City and community business, projects and initiatives. (Video Production Work?)
  • The PEG Ad Hoc Committee recommends that the City begin enhancing these activities in July. Several possibilities exist, including public access to studio production for public service announcements and other informational shows or “shorts” to be broadcast on the PEG.

Other possibilities include broadcasting the “Monday meetings with the Mayor” and other City-related meetings of public interest not currently streamed live or broadcast on the PEG. (Currently the City lacks the expertise to deliver these meetings to Channel 3. I have to wait a week to download from Granicus and repair the sound track hum and bring into lip synch.)

Staff will continue to work closely with the Ad Hoc Committee to fulfill the recommendation taking into account current resources and equipment.

The committee’s recommendation supports the enhancement of Council’s Goals and Priorities including several strategies outlined in Goal 5.0 -“Improve Community Access to City Services”; Objective 5.1 –“Increase the availability of Services, Communication and Outreach to the General Public”.

These strategies include:

  1. Prioritize the Public Input Process (High Priority) (Mendocino TV had already build an interactive listings service and we were rolling out an announcements service when we were e-mailed 2 days before the City Council Meeting and enhanced with new web page access to submission forms. This web presence was contractually the City’s responsibility but Linda Ruffing finally admitted that her IT department couldn’t get it done and dumped that extra load on top of everything else. They now can? It’s January 2018 and all they have done is post a jpg screen capture of the scheduling screen on their web page.)
  2. Publicize Important Upcoming Meetings Via Press Releases, the City’s Website, and Social Media (High Priority) Available now. (This has nothing to do with PEG administration. We’ve been asking the city staff to provide PSAs and press releases for 2 years now and they have only submitted one. The one announcement submitted violated 2 PEG guidelines!)
  3. Utilize Public Access Channel (PEG) for Notification and Indicate Where Members of the Public Can Get information (Medium Priority). (This exists now!)
  4. Consider Creating a “City News Show” (Low Priority). (Was in the works with Lindy Peters but not now.)

 It is obvious that the people writing this are unaware of the current status of the PEG today. 

As far as I know, only one councilmember has Comcast, Dave Turner, who said at the last ad hoc meeting,

“My wife watches it all of the time and I can’t understand why. She tells me there are some good shows on Channel 3”.

 Original Programming by Mendocino TV during the duration of our contract.

  1. FBUSD
  2. MCDH
  3. The Abalone Hunter
  4. Building Healthy Communities
  5. Mind Body Health & Politics
  6. The Shift
  7. Art Beat
  8. Off the Cuff with Jared Huffman edited as a video
  9. Timberwolves Football / Sports
  10. Mendocino Media Makers
  11. Naturally Mendocino w/ Skip Taube

Mendocino TV provided 92 to 110 hrs a month of original programming content!

to be continued …

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