The People vs. The City of Albuquerque
As Public Access TV Stations decline across the country, so does free speech
A study conducted by the Buske Group and the Alliance for Communications Democracy shows that over a five year period between 2005-2010, public access television stations across the country have been rapidly eroding. The latest casualty of this trend is New Mexico’s Quote-UnQuote, the non-profit that’s contracted with the City of Albuquerque to provide a platform for free speech for the past 30 years. On Friday, Quote Unquote was informed by a City representative that the Request for Proposal (RFP) to run Channels 26 & 27 has been awarded to someone else. The Board, staff and legal team are exhausting all avenues of appeal in anticipation of a legal challenge to the evaluation process and scoring of the proposals. By virtue of the award recommendation going to the least experienced candidate with the highest price tag to run the channels, Quote-UnQuote is filing an appeal and launching an investigation into the fairness of scoring process, possible conflicts of interest on the scoring panel and the fiscal accountability of the City’s recommendation.
IF THE APPEAL IS UNSUCCESSFUL, QUOTE-UNQUOTE PUBLIC ACCESS TELEVISION CHANNELS 26 & 27 WILL GO DARK ON DECEMBER 31st, 2011.
The entity that was awarded the contract recommendation, uPublicTV, discloses in their proposal that there will be no live programming for an entire year. We are uncertain as to why the City of Albuquerque would award a contract worth over $300,000 to a station that needs a year to reach capacity when Quote-UnQuote is live right now. By design, Public, Education and Governmental (PEG) access centers are funded by cable companies as part of their franchise agreement with the local municipality. In these agreements, the town negotiates with the cable company to create an arrangement that allows the community to have its communication needs met in exchange for the cable companies’ ability to effectively establish a legal monopoly. The City gets funding and distribution of PEG channels, broadband access for government offices and schools, and requirements that service is offered to the entire community, not just the wealthy parts of town. The community gets a chance create media that represents them, that matters to them and meets their needs on a local level. This type of local media is essential in a consolidated media environment where people of color, women, people with disabilities and many others never get through.
How can you help?
If you are an Albuquerque resident call City Council at 505. 768. 3100 and leave a message in support of Quote-UnQuote. City Council has the final say on all contracts. Look up your city councilor here at this website http://www.cabq.gov/council/ (Ask for a review of the Public Access RFP Process).
If you are an Albuquerque resident you can also attend the Monday, Nov. 7 City Council meeting. This will be in the Griegos Chambers of One Civic Plaza at 5pm.
If you cannot attend these meetings or you are based outside of Albuquerque, please email ejones [at] quote-unquote [dot] org a short paragraph of support and/or testimonial for Quote Unquote Community Media Center.
Video tape your 1 minute testimonial and we will air it and put it on our website and/or Facebook page. Upload to YouTube and we can link to it, email ejones [at] quote-unquote [dot] org.