According to a study prepared by the Benton Foundation, "since 2005 PEG Access Centers in at least 100 communities across the United States have been closed or endured severe funding cuts, or may be forced to cease operations. The primary reasons cited for reductions in funding and in-kind resources for PEG Access Centers were “new state franchising laws and/or decisions by local governments.”
We must stop this! This is happening here in Albuquerque. Acquired through the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), Quote-Unquote, Inc. discovered that the closed committee iPEG, which oversees and handles millions of dollars for PEG channels locally, is in the middle of working with Comcast Cable to change the current franchise agreement and to potentially buy back 6 of the 9 public channels for a mere, wait for it... $250,000. If you know anything about TV, it is that channels go for at least $30million. This is a sweet deal for Big Corporate Media. What better way to ensure that this deal goes through then making sure another company (one that would not put up a fight as QUQ has been) would be a complacent and compliant party in such a scandalous deal.
"Comcast Cable is one of the world's leading media, entertainment and communications companies." Comcast Cable has been involved in
the closure of 54 PEG access centers nationwide since 2005.
(Appendix 2, http://benton.org/sites/benton.org/files/2011%20PEG%20Access%20study.pdf)
We have discovered a backdoor deal. The biggest concern is that it all traces back to the mayor-appointed ad-hoc committee that neither the City Council, the Cable Franchise and Hearing Board nor the community at large had even heard of. These scandalous deals are happening more often than we even know. They are unfair, unethical, and ILLEGAL. The City's Procurement process is flawed. It outright ignored the exclusive authority of the Ordained Cable Franchise & Hearing Board, which is designated to make these types of important decisions. From the beginning, they were not at all involved in the Procurement process. As we delved deeper into our research, this situation has become much larger than just about Quote-Unquote, Inc. It is a national issue, one worth spreading awareness! As you can gather, this is a planned out effort for media conglomerates to further monopolize the airwaves on a national level. Locally here, we are encountering similar challenges.
Additionally, with the Comcast and Verizon merger in the works, these media giants could then benefit by utilizing these "unused" airwaves (as they have justified) to further deliver content to/for their customers with wider access and reach through acquiring this extra bandwidth. This is a national concern!
Many other violations occurred throughout the entire City Procurement process. Such as, in early May backdoor meetings between Rick Metz (owner of uPublic TV) and CAO, Rob Perry and former Assistant City Attorney, Carolyn Fudge met to discuss the designing of the Public Access TV Request for Proposal (RFP), prior to it being issued to the public on July 28th. This is indeed an unfair advantage one bidding company had over others. Unprecedented deadline extensions for bidders to submit their proposal was not only extended once, but twice. According to city officials, this is unheard, especially since the City Procurement office upholds this specific protocol very seriously. Lastly, uPublic, the highest bidder (with 43% higher than the lowest bidder), has a highly commercial approach to running the public access channels. They outlined in their proposal they would be the executive producers of all programs, thus controlling and monitoring what content is put out through this public airwave.
It is all very political and strategic. Think about it logically. The City went through all this effort to get rid of an organization who for the past 30years has been successfully running the channels and creating community partnerships. You must ask yourself, why now? Is it because of national media negotiations taking place this is having a local trickle-down effect? Is it because uPublic will serve as a pawn in the local city political agenda, acting compliant for this Comcast buyback to go through? Perhaps, it is the fact by putting a commercially driven company in power the access of Free Speech will slowly dwindle, thus ultimately eliminating it? You must ask these questions, just as I have been.
What is happening to save Free Speech?
On a national level, Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH) have introduced H.R. 1746, the Community Access Preservation Act. The legislation, if adopted, would restore PEG funding eliminated by some state laws, would allow PEG funding to be used for operating expenses, would prevent Cable operators from discriminating against PEG channels, and make it clear that any entity that provides video services via facilities in the rights of way is subject to the Cable Act's franchising requirements. To learn more about the CAP ACT, click here!
On a local level, I urge my fellow community members to call your City Councilor. Let them understand this is not about one group "losing" the bid to run a public channel. This is much larger than that. Call them at 768-3100 or go to cabq.gov/council and email them all. Speak your voice, it is your right!
Take a few minutes to watch the videos below (click on the links). Also, if you are outraged by what is happening here and throughout the country, please email Erica Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIDEOS/ARTICLES related to Public Access TV:
Battle To Save Public Access TV In America
Ultimate Access: The Fight for Public Access in Troy
Fighting To Save Public Access TV in Tampa
Phila. Public-access TV board: Verizon deal flawed