Public Access TV Seeks Shelter and Funds
Quote... Unquote, Inc. got an eviction notice.
The county wants the nonprofit that runs public access channel 27 and Encantada TV on channel 26 to vacate the old Bernalillo County Courthouse by Dec. 31. "There was an issue, an ongoing argument between the city and the county, and we happened to get caught in the middle of it," explains Colleen Gorman, media education and information systems coordinator for Quote... Unquote, Inc.
The city was renting the space for $1 per year from the county. APS did some renovating in the fall and temporarily housed the Atrisco Heritage Academy High School there. Then Bernalillo County decided to use more of the building, and the city didn’t want to continue to cover the utilities if the county was occupying more space, Gorman says.
“It's stressful on staff. The rug's getting pulled out from under our feet.”
Colleen Gorman, media education and information systems coordinator for Quote... Unquote, Inc.
But Assistant City Attorney Carolyn Fudge says utilities aren't the issue. Instead, she says, the county just wants to use its entire building, and that means the public access channels have to leave. The city is going through its inventory of property, she adds, and looking for a space for Quote... Unquote, Inc.
The space issue is one of a few pressing problems for the nonprofit, according to Gorman. Comcast pays the city 44 cents per cable customer every month in exchange for the right to lay its line in Albuquerque. Federal legislation mandates that money go to public, educational or government stations (PEG stations).
"The reason this is important is that right now, most of the money is put into the City of Albuquerque's general funds account," Gorman says. Some of the dough filters down to a committee that oversees expenditures on equipment for PEG stations. And channels 26 and 27 don't have representation on that committee. Government access channel 16 does, Gorman adds. Fudge counters that Quote... Unquote, Inc., has received $795,921 from the committee since 2003.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 29, one of the issues was whether the Comcast cable board would have an opportunity to advise the city on how to spend money on PEG stations, Gorman says. "Comcast holds the city to the agreement on behalf of cable subscribers. They've been the police."
Mike Trujillo, Quote... Unquote, Inc. programing coordinator, says the nonprofit is expected to run two channels on one budget. Encantada TV on channel 26 launched in early May. The nonprofit has had the same budget for 19 years, he adds, and it serves more people than ever.
The way Gorman tells the tale, when Quote... Unquote, Inc. asked if it could start a second station for $35,000, the city approved. Then, she says, the city opted not to pony up the funds. She calls it a bait-and-switch. But Fudge has a different story. She says the city told the nonprofit all along there wouldn't be any additional money. "We said, Don't start it up with the expectation of additional funding."
Everything is up in the air, Gorman says, which makes it hard to plan. "It's stressful on staff. The rug's getting pulled out from under our feet."