Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL

FROM: CABLE TELEVISION AD HOC COMMITTEE

DATE: DECEMBER 17, 2002

SUBJECT: EDUCATIONAL ACCESS CHANNEL

RECOMMENDATION

  1. Adopt Resolution No. 2002 - ; directing Cox Communications to establish an educational access channel pursuant Exhibit E, Section I(C)(1) of the October 17, 2000 Cable Television Franchise Agreement on the local cable television network.
  2. Establish a start-up date of May 1, 2003 for launching the channel.
  3. Approve use of the old Cable TV studio on City Hall property for filming and editing.
  4. Establish a budget of $125,000 for re-furbishing the studio and purchasing of camera and editing equipment.
  5. Establish an annual budget of $70,000 for operating the studio.

BACKGROUND

On September 17, 2002, the City Council established a Cable Television Ad Hoc Subcommittee, consisting of (then) Mayor McTaggart and Councilman Gardiner, to explore the possibility of maximizing the City’s use of local cable access under the current Franchise Agreement with Cox Communications. Section (C)(1) of Exhibit E, Support of Local Cable Usage, of the October 17, 2000 Cable Television Franchise Agreement states:

Following a determination by the Grantor’s City Council that a dedicated educational access channel will provide a meaningful benefit to the community, taking into consideration alternative uses for the channel, and that the channel will be for such use, Grantee will provide to Grantor, at no cost to Grantor, one channel for noncommercial local educational programming.

As reported by Councilman Gardiner at the October 15, 2002 City Council meeting, the Ad Hoc Committee met with Cox Communications General Manager Steve Fowler on October 7, 2002 to discuss, among other issues, the City’s interest in creating a dedicated educational access channel. Based the results of that discussion, the Ad Hoc Committee directed staff to send out letters to local educational institutions soliciting their input regarding the creation of a local educational access channel and inviting them to attend the November 5, 2002 City Council meeting to discuss the matter.

On October 16, 2002, staff sent letters to the following fifteen local educational institutions:

Palos Verdes Unified School District
California State University Dominguez Hills
El Camino Community College
Los Angeles Harbor College
Marymount College Palos Verdes
Southern California Regional Occupational Center (SCROC)
Chadwick School
International Bilingual School Los Angeles
Peninsula Heritage School
Peninsula Montessori School
Rolling Hills Country Day School
Rolling Hills Preparatory School
Palos Verdes Art Center
Norris Theater of the Performing Arts
Palos Verdes on the Net

The City received responses from the Palos Verdes Unified School District, Rolling Hills Country Day School and Los Angeles Harbor College prior to the November 5, 2002 City Council meeting. All three institutions indicated an interest in learning more about the opportunity to utilize an educational access channel. In addition to these responses, El Camino College was represented at the November 5, 2002 Council meeting and expressed the opinion that the creation of an educational channel serving the Peninsula would be an excellent idea and would be supported by El Camino College.

After receiving testimony and discussing the educational access channel idea, the City Council directed staff to invite representatives of interested parties to meet with the Ad Hoc Committee to discuss various issues including how they would utilize an educational channel if it were available and what resources they might offer to support the channel. Minutes of the November 5, 2002 Council meeting are attached. The Committee was asked to report back to Council on December 17, 2002.

On December 1, 2002 the Educational Access Channel Developmental Workshop was held at City Hall. The attendees included:

John McTaggart, Mayor, Rancho Palos Verdes
Peter Gardiner, Councilmember, Rancho Palos Verdes
Dr. Ira Toibin, Superintendent, Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District
Olivia Yates, Director of Institutional Advancement, Crestmont College
Major Donna Jackson, Director of Admissions/Curriculum Coordinator, Crestmont College
Luis Rosas, Vice President, Academic Affairs, Los Angeles Harbor College
Dr. Linda Spink, President, Los Angeles Harbor College
Nancy Carson, Dean, Academic Affairs, Los Angeles Harbor College
Cecilia Yu, South Bay Chinese School
Anita Ip, South Bay Chinese School
Paul Fornelli, Production Manager, Cox Communications
Jim Leach, Vice President, Government Affairs, Cox Communications
Marty DeSollar, Vice President, Public Relations, Cox Communications
Kathy Shinkle, Public Relations Director, Palos Verdes Art Center
Ted Vegvari. Palos Verdes on the Net
Gabriella Holt, Producer/Director Cable Programs, Rancho Palos Verdes
Les Evans, City Manager, Rancho Palos Verdes

Each representative briefly summarized their current video production capabilities and described their needs and resources. The group then focused on a set of issues that included:

  • Policies and Procedures
  • Pre-start Requirements
  • Needs
  • Resources
  • Constraints

After it was determined that the only formal requirement to create the educational channel was to give Cox Communications thirty days notice and there was no "minimum" programming requirement, most of the discussion centered on "policies and procedures."

The workshop attendees agreed there is a need to make policy decisions on a long list of "programming rules." The policies should address:

  • How much local programming and how much imported programming is the proper mix?
  • How many hours of programming should we attempt to provide?
  • What should be the mix between local classroom learning and distance learning?
  • Should we distinguish between programs that offer classroom credit vs. those that are enrichment offerings?
  • Should we offer programming that requires fees for credit?
  • Should we allow advertising of any type?
  • What should we establish as the technical requirement for input/signal to the channel?
  • How will we evaluate the programming?

The group also agreed that prior to "launch" the cost of the channel must be identified as well as a method of publicizing the programming. Paul Fornelli, of Cox Communications, warned that there were some very difficult issues that would have to be addressed as the City approves programming and scheduling. Marty DeSollar, also of Cox Communications, added that the policies should all be in place before we start the programming.

Other issues that were raised by the group as important issues to be addressed included;

  • What are the Roles of the Players (what is the City role, Cox role, etc)?
  • What is our Mission Statement?
  • What are the Best Practices?

Notes from the meeting are attached.

DISCUSSION

On Friday afternoon, December 5, 2002, the AD Hoc Committee met to follow-up on the information gained from the December 1, 2002 Workshop. The Ad Hoc Committee made the following decisions:

  • Based on the interest shown by the education community, the Committee will recommend that the City Council direct Cox Communications to create an educational channel.
  • In view of the need to create a studio, purchase equipment and develop a staff to operate the studio, the Committee will recommend that the City set a date of May 1, 2003 to actually begin programming.
  • The Committee agreed that many of the "policy issues" could be addressed by having the City produce all content for the educational channel. If, in the opinion of the City, there is a need for additional content, the City will solicit Statements of Interest for proving that programming and select the most qualified provider.
  • In order for the City to insure adequate studio time to support the proposed educational access channel, the Committee will recommend that the City provide a studio including equipment and staffing.

Policy Issues

The workshop discussion made it clear that controlling the content and quality of the programming to be offered on the proposed educational channel could become the most difficult and controversial part of operating the channel. The Ad Hoc Committee felt that, at least during the start-up period, only the City would provide programming for the channel. This approach would avoid the potential of trying to evaluate a possible flood of material that may not meet the City’s education programming objectives, or invite legal challenges to use of the channel. Should the City feel that more programming is needed, a request for statements of interest in providing specific programming can be utilized.

Objectives of the Educational Access Channel

The Ad Hoc Committee wants to focus on educational opportunities, primarily for youth, in the creative and technical aspects of video production. They visualize young people preparing scripts, producing, directing, filming and editing material for the channel. In order to accomplish this goal, the City will require the use of a fully equipped studio over which it has control, and personnel who can supervise and train the participants. PV on the Net has offered to provide up to three video editing stations and trained staff to operate the City studio. Gabriella Holt has agreed to lend her expertise to the creative aspects of the program including script writing, producing and directing.

Proposed Budget

Refurbish the former Cable TV Studio at the Civic Center   $50,000
Provide cameras, audio equipment, lighting, etc.   $75,000
     
Estimated annual cost of operation:    
Personnel costs (contract with PVNet) $45,000  
Equipment replacement fund $15,000  
Material and supplies $10,000  
    $70,000
Estimated Total Cost for start-up   $195,000

City Studio

The Ad Hoc Committee determined that a City-controlled studio would be required in order to meet the objectives they have set for the Educational Access Channel. Currently, the former Cox Communications Studio at the Civic Center is not being utilized and has a floor plan and cable access that makes it ideal for use as the City studio. However, the building has been used for storage by Cox for many years and needs major cleaning and refurbishment prior to being suitable for use as a studio. Major roof repairs, plumbing and electrical upgrades, installation of air conditioning and

Cleaning and painting need to be accomplished. These upgrades and major repairs are eligible for funding from the City’s Building Replacement Fund.

FISCAL IMPACT

If the City Council directs Cox Communications to provide the City with a dedicated educational access channel, the Cable Franchise Agreement requires the cable operator to do so at no cost to the City. However, although Cox is required to provide space in its channel line-up, the Franchise Agreement does not obligate the cable operator to provide any of the equipment, staffing or other financial support that may be required to develop, produce and edit the programming that will be shown on the channel. Cox communications has provided an estimate of costs for various facility improvements, equipment and staffing. Those estimates are attached.

The cost of re-furbishing the Cable TV studio ($50,000) could be borne by the Building Replacement Fund that currently has a balance of about $1 million. The cost of camera and editing equipment, etc. ($75,000) could be taken from the projected General Fund Reserve available for appropriation (which is the Total General Fund Reserve less the General Fund Reserve policy level of $6,451,870). The current balance of this fund is $179,318. Operating costs should be charged to current General Fund revenues. Our current approved operating expenditures are slightly greater (about $25,000) than estimated General Fund revenues.

Respectfully submitted:

Les Evans
City Manager

Attachments

Resolution No. 2002-
City Council Minutes of November 5, 2002
Notes from the Developmental workshop of December 1, 2002
Analysis of the Condition of the Proposed TV Studio
Cost Estimates prepared by Cox Communications