Berkeley Community Media (BCM) is currently facing the task of moving out of its Berkeley High School (BHS) headquarters by June 30 and finding a new location.
BCM is a nonprofit organization which produces and broadcasts content in addition to teaching locals how to create media. BCM has also provided BHS students with an internship program where interns gain hands-on experience in film and television production by creating projects for broadcast.
BHS has been BCM’s headquarters for more than twenty years, and its relocation means the organization will take their television stations off-air for the first time. Their television channels are currently on the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
BCM’s Executive Director Brian Scott said that he is unsure of how long the move will take, as Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) has no plans to help with the cost of moving and there is currently no space available to move the facility.
“We are slated to be moved out by June 30 which, when considering the amount of equipment and infrastructure that will need to be moved and then re-assembled in the new space, is extremely problematic,” he said.
Scott said that BCM’s move will have a large impact on the community, as the organization currently provides over 125 Berkeley residents with space and equipment to produce programs and film content related to topics such as education, local issues, health, and politics.
Berkeley’s government will also be affected, Scott said. “Both our public and educational stations will need to shut down, stopping coverage of the City Council, Zoning Adjustment Board, Rent Board and, in fact, the BUSD Board meetings as well,” he stated.
Michael Vaughn, who has served as the director of education at BCM for about six years and is a BHS alumnus and former teacher, expressed sadness that the nonprofit is relocating. “It would have been cool to have BCM’s space and equipment used by BHS during the day, and for BHS to have a ‘full service’ television broadcasting department. I like it when BHS student interns come in after school, and start on media projects,” Vaughn said.
The organization and the school district made an agreement that BCM would broadcast BUSD School Board meetings as well as offer training to students, in exchange for using the BHS space rent-free.
However, BUSD says that documentation of the agreement cannot be found, and now plans on using BCM’s current space next fall for other programs.
Scott said, “These ‘facts’ are simply not true and demonstrate an inability of the BUSD to take responsibility for their own harsh actions and short-sightedness.”
According to Scott, BCM does have a number of copies of the original agreement with BUSD. He offered to provide them to the district at any time.
Scott said that some BUSD teachers falsely stated that BCM has never reached out to them or tried to build a strong connection with BHS. He countered that the organization has provided a number of programs on its own and has never denied a request for use of the space or training to any Berkeley teacher or student.
Additionally, Vaughn, who is in charge of the internship program, said that he has reached out to many teachers at Willard, Martin Luther King, Longfellow, Berkeley Technology Academy as well as BHS for many years and has received no response or interest.
“I’ve been telling BUSD teachers directly, and via email all the time for the past nine years. Certainly, as the Intern Coordinator, I’ve been always letting teachers … know about us,” Vaughn said.
Although BCM will no longer be headquartered at BHS, the internship program will continue at its new location. Vaughn said he hopes that BCM will have its program up and running soon after the relocation. He also said he would like to meet any BHS student who wants to intern, and any BHS or BUSD teacher who wants support in using media in the classroom.