Borough encounters resistance on meeting broadcast contract

Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2003

Kachemak Bay Broadcasting Inc. is in line for a contract to air future meetings of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly beginning in January, but the owner of the broadcast corporation that currently does that job has filed a protest.

The assembly is expected to address the concerns raised by Peninsula Communications Inc. owner Dave Becker, whose stations have broadcast the bimonthly meetings since the 1980s.

In an Oct. 16 letter to borough Mayor Dale Bagley appealing the proposed contract award to KBBI, Becker said the borough had "completely failed to acknowledge the unfairness of a government-subsidized, tax-exempt entity (KBBI Public Radio) bidding against the private sector for a contract to provide a service to the borough." He said the field was anything but level and was "badly tilted against a private commercial enterprise in this situation."

Among other things, Becker said KBBI and its partner station KDLL (Pickle Hill Public Broad-casting Inc.) had enjoyed more than a million dollars in public money for land, studios, transmitters, towers, antennae and production equipment, as well as waivers of or exemptions from Federal Communications Commission regulatory fees and borough property taxes by virtue of its nonprofit status. Those are costs Becker said he has had to cover in his 25 years as president and founder of PCI.

"PCI should not be forced to compete against a bidder that has an overwhelming advantage of free capital funding of over a million dollars when PCI has paid for all of its capital expenses out of pocket," he said.

Becker also said KBBI and KDLL had misled the borough regarding signal coverage capability in the central and eastern peninsula areas.

KBBI Program Director Sonja Lee said she would not respond to Becker's direct claims, but said KBBI and KDLL officials would participate in a special meeting on the contract issue scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, the morning of the assembly's regularly scheduled meeting.

"We have submitted our proposal and have made some revisions to clarify some things that the borough might not understand," Lee said. "We are confident in all the information we have given. It's the borough's decision."

Asked if KBBI and KDLL would hurt financially if they were not awarded the contract, Lee said KBBI's interest was more a matter of seizing an opportunity to increase its public service.

"That's basically our mission. We cover the Homer City Council meetings. This is a way to provide more of a public service in reaching the peninsula with the borough meetings."

The basic terms of the proposed contract are spelled out in Resolution 2003-115. If awarded, the contract would start Jan. 4, 2004, and end June 30, 2004, with an automatic extension until June 30, 2005. It would pay $550 per meeting not to exceed $6,600 for the first six months.

The necessity of putting the contract out to bid this fall resulted when a FCC administrative law judge revoked two of Peninsula Communication's FM full-power radio stations licenses earlier this year stations that had fed a network of translators.

Becker said he would appeal the ruling, but the revocations called into question whether PCI would be able to continue broadcasting to some areas of the borough, including Seward.

Efforts to reach Becker for further comment Thursday afternoon were not successful.

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