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New Public-Access TV Operator Sought

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry’s administration wants a new company to take over Albuquerque’s public-access TV for the first time in 30 years.

A recommendation headed to the City Council would authorize the city to negotiate with uPublic to take over operation of Cable Channels 26 and 27. An evaluation committee rated the group the highest among six that responded to a request for proposals.

But supporters of Quote-Unquote, which has run the system since 1981, intend to fight the recommendation. They say the uPublic proposal is more expensive and that Quote-Unquote offers more experience.

“Quote-Unquote is about the First Amendment,” said Steve Ranieri, the company’s executive director. “We don’t tell people what they can and cannot say. We have a fear that what’s going on now is exactly that.”

Rick Metz of uPublic said his company doesn’t plan to limit free expression.

“Not at all,” he said. “The whole point of public access is that all the different quadrants of the community have some ability to produce a show and state their perspective. The mission of the station doesn’t really change at all.”

He said uPublic hopes to invest more in production quality.

The public-access channel offerings now include everything from high school sporting events to shows by off-the-wall political activists.

A city committee that evaluated the proposals rated uPublic the best in categories that covered “general approach” and financial viability. Quote-Unquote was the highest rated for experience.

Overall, Quote-Unquote finished second among the six proposals.

Quote-Unquote proposed to operate the channels for about $270,000 a year, the same amount it’s received in recent years, Ranieri said. The uPublic proposal calls for $387,000 the first year and $336,000 the second year.

Acting City Attorney Robert Kidd said the actual numbers haven’t been negotiated yet.

Ranieri, meanwhile, said uPublic hasn’t aired any programming on the educational-access channel it won the contract for.

In fact, he said, uPublic doesn’t “have any real experience running a television channel ever. That’s the most obvious thing that’s screwy about this situation.”

Metz said that even though his company hasn’t run the public-access channels before, it does have plenty of experience in production and is well-qualified.

Kidd said uPublic was awarded the contract for the educational channel in March, but the channel “had been dark for so long” that the city knew it would take time to get it up and running again.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal