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Supervisors Hold Off on Broadcast : Government: Molina argues for televising hearings. But other supervisors question spending amid cuts.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Low ratings and high production costs--hardly music to any producer’s ears.

Those sour notes sounded Tuesday as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors considered spending up to $500,000 a year to televise its meetings, despite estimates of low public interest.

Supervisor Gloria Molina proposed the cable TV broadcast, noting that Congress, the Legislature and Los Angeles City Council are among the governmental bodies that televise their hearings.

“It allows for more dialogue and participation with the electorate,” Molina said.

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The other four supervisors said they were reluctant to spend the money when the cash-strapped county is cutting other services, including libraries. They requested a more detailed report and tabled the issue until next week.

“If people aren’t interested, I don’t see why we should be spending $500,000 to push it on them,” Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said.

But Molina said the cost of buying air time and paying a production company to videotape the meetings would come out of a special fund earmarked for communication purposes.

About 40 cable companies that serve the unincorporated portions of the county pay 5% of their gross subscriber fees, about $2 million annually, into a special fund the county uses for such programs as video arraignments of jail inmates.

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The money may be used for any purpose, but last year a commission recommended that some of it pay for televising the board meetings, which take place at least once a week.

The supervisors Tuesday approved using $90,000 of the funds to televise an annual holiday show on KCET.

Area cities, including Santa Monica and Los Angeles, use similar funds as well as other revenue sources to broadcast their meetings.

Santa Monica, for instance, pays radio station KCRW $67,600 annually to broadcast its twice-monthly City Council meetings and spends nearly $500,000 a year to broadcast council meetings and other material 16 hours a day on a government-access channel.

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