Pasadena Community Access Corporation Executive Director George Falardeau and Chief Operating Officer Chris Miller appeared before the City of Pasadena’s EdTech Committee last week to request a $43,000 COLA increase over its $1.1 million 2023 budget.
The proposed bump for the calendar year 2024 would provide a small hourly raise for existing staff, fund hiring a part-time employee and help offset the cost of replacing an aging remote truck with an electric vehicle.
Details: PCAC (Pasadena Community Access Corporation) is the government face of Pasadena Media that serves as the city’s official administrating and disbursing entity for the one-percent PEG (Public Education and Government Access) fee it collects from cable providers.
The non-profit has a full production facility on South Los Robles Avenue offering training, resources and facilities for Pasadena residents who want to produce their own TV programs. It oversees four channels carried by Spectrum and AT&T cable locally, which are also accessible at pasadenamedia.org:
- KPAS, the City of Pasadena government channel
- Arroyo, the Pasadena community access channel
- KLRN Pasadena, the PUSD education channel
- PCC-TV, the Pasadena City College education channel
EdTech, the City Council’s Economic Development & Technology Committee, is one of five sub-committees (the others are Finance, Legislative Policy, Municipal Services and Public Safety) formed to free the full council from having to be present at every hearing. Four of the seven council members serve on the EdTech committee.
How we got here: According to PCAC’s Miller, “The way it works is George (Falardeau) and I start developing the budget mid-year, which for us is January (the fiscal year is July through June). By March, we have a draft budget in front of our board of directors. Once that’s approved, we move it to the City Manager’s team, typically in March. On their end, they discuss it with their Finance Committee. We talk about any adjustments that need to be made, and then we present before EdTech.”
Council members’ concerns: Forty years into a symbiotic relationship, PCAC and the City of Pasadena are familiar dance partners.
- Chairman Tyron Hampton requested and received Falardeau’s assurance that PCAC’s new remote truck would be an electric vehicle.
- Hampton and Councilwoman Jennifer Rivas both expressed a desire to see hard viewership numbers in order to gauge the city’s ROI more accurately.
According to Falardeau, engaging the services of Nielsen TV ratings, considered by many the gold standard in audience measurement, requires an initial outlay of “anywhere between $30,000 to $40,000 to get an accurate imprint. And that’s just for their basic service,” he emphasized. “There would also be substantial annual costs.”
“Substantial” is synonymous with “prohibitive.”
On the bright side, Falardeau informed the committee that PCAC is in the process of hiring a new employee responsible for “revamping our understanding of how we get viewership through the clicks we receive on social media.” Falardeau also stated that Pasadena Media channels are viewable worldwide “over the top” on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV devices.
A hodgepodge solution for viewership statistics may not be dead accurate, but it’s a step up from relying purely on anecdotal observations.
“I don’t think the social media platforms that we’re talking about are necessarily going to tell us what the ratings are,” Miller clarified. “They’re not going to tell us who’s watching the videos necessarily (demographic information like age, sex, or political leanings). But they will tell us about outreach into the community.”
Public comments: A trio of concerned citizens, allotted 90 seconds apiece, stepped up to the podium and spoke about the vital role public television and local news plays in keeping the community at large engaged.
Some of the crucial points council members listened to attentively were:
- It’s important to address compensation deficiencies as they apply to PCAC staff. Pasadena’s an expensive place to live, and even small salary boosts can make a big difference. When staff live here, it makes for a more cohesive environment.
- An informed public is one that participates in democracy. And we cannot be informed if we lose even a fraction of the budget for the work performed by the PCAC.
- Even Social Security allocated an 8.7% increase in benefits this year. A similar increase in the budget for one of the city’s most important functions (broadcasting its civic workings for public consumption) is one that should be approved without any hesitation.
- The production computers at PCAC are limping along on the Windows 7 operating system — which was released in 2009 and was officially discontinued by Microsoft in January 2020.
A rare moment of City Council mirth: A classic slip of the tongue turned out to be a real ice breaker. “We’ve hired a part-time SER (Service, Employment, and Redevelopment) worker,” Falardeau noted, giving a real-world example of how PCAC strives to be nimble and self-sufficient by actively exploring out-of-the-box monetization sources independent of city funding. “The Foothills Workforce Development Board (through the Department of Labor) pays for his employment,” he continued, sounding like a proud papa, before going on to identify the hire: “His name is Terry Tornek. And he’s outstanding.”
The entire room instantly cracked up — the Terry that Falardeau identified, not the SER worker with a soundalike last name — is none other than the former Mayor.
Next steps: EdTech will present its recommendations to the full council. If any other council members who aren’t on the EdTech committee have questions, they can also ask PCAC in the run-up to compiling the city’s annual budget document that’s required to be adopted by June 30.
Read between the lines: With 40 years of goodwill in the bank, and plenty of want-to on both sides to preserve local news, no one would be shocked if the city approves PCAC’s request for an additional $43k bump over its 2023 allocation (which isn’t to imply the requested bump is “in the bag;” it isn’t). But it might behoove the media concern to supply whatever viewership measurables it reasonably can to support future requests.