Former KCTS reporter argues that station should sell spectrum

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Writing for The Seattle Times, a communications professor and former reporter and producer for the city’s KCTS-TV argues that the station should sell its broadcast spectrum and cede local public TV service to Tacoma’s KBTC.

“Our region deserves better,” writes Barry Mitzman, now a teacher of strategic communications at Seattle University. Stations duplicating PBS programming are “inefficient,” he argues. “Regional consolidation might save money that could be invested in programs,” Mitzman continues. “Many states, including Oregon and Idaho, have unified public-TV systems that produce more original content — often much more — than KCTS does.”

With KBTC airing much the same programming as KCTS, the Tacoma station could take over a KCTS transmitter. The latter station could then sell its spectrum in the upcoming FCC spectrum auction and serve “some greater purpose” with the proceeds, Mitzman says.

Mitzman’s op-ed spins off of the recent restructuring at KCTS, which laid off production staff and canceled a local news show. The station is shifting focus to creating digital videos to post online, some of which will be reused for broadcast.

4 thoughts on “Former KCTS reporter argues that station should sell spectrum

  1. Sounds like a disgruntled worker who wants to get back at his former employer.

    And what he proposes can easily boomerang: Were KCTS to go dark, it would lose its cable/satellite carriage rights in Canada.

    • “disgruntled worker”

      Is too easy an answer and doesn’t address the real issues at KBTC.

      1) The incessant fund raising. The increasing info-commercials programing. KBTC serves the very affluent Seattle area and yet it’s unabated fund raise only seems to increase. PBS stations serving other similar affluent cities e. g. San Jose and San Francisco in California are not interrupting programing for fundraising at the frequency level of KCTS.

      2) Local programing like “In Close” a well produced program and ideally suited to the greater Seattle area. It’s the kind of depth in programing not found or expected from other local stations. It simply misses the opportunity and the mission PBS provides to cancel a program like “In Close” and other locally produced programs with what appears to be the short-term ratings mentality of commercial television.

      3) Digital-first, a good “small” idea for a thirty minute Saturday morning segment. YouTube, Podcast, internet are already saturating the field. It’s an idea suited for a small pirate station not a $19 million dollar main-stay PBS station for the Seattle area.

      4) The choices made and the problems created lie with Chief Executive Robert Dunlop. So far his approach and style would fit better in small commercial production company or commercial television station but he’s missed placed in a PBS station.

  2. I also question the author’s proposal on a technical basis. If KCTS were to “sell its allocation of broadcast spectrum” it would then be impossible for KBTC to “extend its signal by taking over the KCTS transmitter”. Aren’t these options mutually exclusive or am I missing something? There is substantial overlap in the coverage area, but in order to maintain the full service now being provided by both stations, merging the two would not result in needing less over the air bandwidth unless there was a true reduction of service. Currently one carries TVW and MHz and the other carries V-Me and Create. It would be nearly impossible to have all 4 subchannels plus a true HD main PBS channel, at least with current ATSC / MPEG 2 standards. Perhaps the combined station could carry all 5 on their translators, and then only carry the 3 that are most popular / most viewed on the main full power signal?

    • Hi Johnathan — yes, you’re right, KBTC could not take over the transmitter because KCTS wouldn’t have one anymore. He might have meant that KBTC could broadcast from the same location. But if the spectrum were sold, KBTC would have to find another frequency to broadcast on. I don’t know whether that would be feasible.

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