KCSM-TV in San Mateo, Calif., has dropped international programming from MHz Networks after determining that the programs did not meet legal requirements for noncommercial stations.
MHz and KCSM negotiated for several months before the station discontinued the content July 15, said Jan Roecks, v.p. of administrative services for licensee San Mateo Community College District, which operates KCSM.
KCSM’s website notes, “We complained to MHz repeatedly regarding underwriting and political call-to-action messages that did not comply with FCC regulations. MHZ has been either unable or unwilling to bring its broadcasts into compliance with the applicable requirements.”
KCSM Technology Director Michele Muller declined to provide examples. The station’s attorney, Larry Miller of the Washington, D.C. firm Schwartz, Woods & Miller, characterized the situation as a “private contractual dispute.” Miller hasn’t heard of other MHz client stations raising similar issues.
Fred Thomas, c.e.o. of the Falls Church, Va.–based MHz, was unavailable for comment. A post on MHz's Facebook page reads, “MHz complies with all FCC rules. KCSM always had the right to block any content it found objectionable, but chose not to add the technical equipment needed to do so.” A note on MHz’s website refers visitors to KCSM for more information.
Roecks said MHz was a popular channel with viewers, “no doubt about it” — in particular, its series of international mysteries. Viewers have called the station to express disappointment.
“But in our monitoring, we saw issues with underwriting and political call-to-action messages," Roecks said, declining to comment further. “We talked to our attorney and determined those could cause problems. We were not comfortable with that.”
The college district put KCSM for sale in December 2011 and entered into a funding and management agreement in May 2013 with LocusPoint Networks, part of the Blackstone Group, a multinational investment banker. When the station divests of its spectrum in FCC auctions next year, the licensee and LocusPoint will share the proceeds.
Roecks said the station did not want to risk any FCC problems that could complicate that deal.
The MHz Worldview channel is available as a multicaster mainly through public broadcasting stations; it reaches more than 40 million households nationwide. Its international programming in English originates from broadcasters including China’s CCTV, Deutsche Welle in Germany, Ethiopian TV, Kazakh TV, Today’s Ireland and RT from Russia, as well as local and independent producers.