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BMR Plays Key Role in Bringing Diverse Public TV Stations Together in Statewide Alliance

Common Interests Overcome Historic Differences

Historically, California public television stations have not always worked well together. Most of the fourteen stations compete with one another for audiences in the two largest markets; differences in budget sizes are enormous—ranging from under $700,000 per year to over $70 million; and ownership structures vary widely, from large non-profit corporations to universities, community college districts, and a school board.

With funding from the James Irvine Foundation, BMR Associates conducted a "Statewide Organization Feasibility Study" in 2001. The purpose of the study was to ascertain if there were enough areas of common interest to make a successful collaboration between these diverse stations both feasible and desirable.

The study revealed that the stations had much to gain by working together. In one-to-one interviews station leaders expressed an appetite for collaboration. Every station is undergoing the expensive FCC-mandated transition from analog to digital broadcasting at a time when financial shortfalls are producing staff and programming reductions. The BMR study determined that the stations, by creating a formal alliance, could leverage their expanded digital spectrum capacity to attract support from the State of California for statewide education, outreach initiatives and other services. Efforts to seek support from foundations and corporations with a statewide interest, as well as federal granting agencies, would be enhanced by presenting projects in a statewide context. Further, opportunities were identified for the development of revenue-generating entrepreneurial partnerships and alliances.

CEO's Recognize Robust, Sustained Effort Required

Facing challenges and opportunities unprecedented in public television, station managers approved BMR's recommendations, accepting the need to create a strong statewide organization, and to make a substantial, long-term commitment to its success.

Again, with the support of the Irvine Foundation, BMR assisted the group with the implementation. During the feasibility and implementation phase, BMR and the California stations worked within a business and strategic planning framework to develop a vision, mission, goals, strategies, tactics and an action plan to launch the new organization in way that would best ensure its long-term success.

In facilitating the process, BMR employed various planning tools, including the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). BMR also helped the CEO's anticipate potential barriers and resolve issues such as how to establish an equitable association dues structure among such a diverse group. Station leaders acknowledged that although they often have very different individual agendas—sometimes at odds with other member stations—a willingness to focus on the "overlapping circles of common interest" would ultimately yield the best result. The feasibility study indicated that several years of sustained effort would be required before the stations were likely to realize a substantial return on investment.

Recent News and Future Plans

California Public Television (CPT) was launched in December of 2002 (see press release "California Stations Organize"). A new precedent was recently set when 100% of the stations agreed to a four-tiered dues structure, and, in spite of daunting financial pressures, committed to paying their share to ensure the successful functioning of the organization. As counseled by BMR, CPT members recognized that under funding and under supporting the effort would be counter productive, wasting precious time and scarce resources, and ultimately would be worse than no effort at all.

Discussions in recent months with federal and state agencies, and with other potential funding partners, causes CPT leaders to be optimistic that they will see the benefits of collaborating sooner than originally projected.

BMR continues its relationship with CPT, providing organizational management and other services for the group.

The BMR Project Team, headed by Senior Associate John Hershberger, included David Brugger, former President and CEO of the Association of America's Public Television Stations (APTS) and BMR President, Peter Kiers.



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