KSCM owner leaning toward selling station to spectrum speculator

By Ben Mook

San Mateo County Community College District Chancellor is recommending that the district’s pubTV station, KCSM, be sold to a spectrum speculator owned by private equity firm The Blackstone Group.

Mark Albertson, who covers technology in the San Francisco area for Examiner.com, reported Monday that Ron Galatolo,  chancellor of the college, had chosen LocusPoint out of the four bidders for the station. Other interested buyers include: Public TV Financing, an arm of Independent Public Media, a nonprofit working to preserve noncommercial spectrum; KMTP-TV, a multicultural independent public TV  station licensed to Minority Television Project Inc. in San Francisco; and the Oriental Culture and Media Center of Southern California, a nonprofit promoting communication among different cultures.

The Blackstone Group LP, which recorded a $2 billion profit in 2012, owns 99 percent of LocusPoint through its “Blackstone Tactical Opportunities” division, according to FCC filings. A pair of veteran telecom executives owns the remaining 1 percent. Companies like LocusPoint have been acquiring licenses to commercial and noncommercial TV stations in deals betting on big payouts from the FCC’s upcoming incentive auction of television spectrum.

The amount of Blackstone Group’s bid has not been released, but, in his recommendation to the board of trustees, Galatolo reported that  LocusPoint’s bid includes an offer to subsidize “station operations over an interim period in return for a percentage of proceeds from successful participation in the spectrum auction.”

This is the second round of bids that the college has accepted for KCSM. The district put out a request for proposals in December after turning down offers submitted last year.

If the board accepts Galatolo’s recommendation and works out a deal with the Blackstone subsidiary, the college will become the second higher-ed PTV licensee to sell to a spectrum speculator. LocusPoint bought student-run low-power WMJF in Towson, Md.,  in a $1.8 million deal with the University of Maryland that includes payments to cover station operating costs for two years after the sale closes.

The San Mateo Community College district’s board of trustees is scheduled to meet May 15 to take up the recommendation.

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