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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Free Speech Not For Sale by Contributing Writer Lora Lucero

By Contributing Writer Lora Lucero.

The US foreign policy of using sanctions against Iraq in the 1980s-1990s and currently against Iran  is designed to be the kinder, gentler, antiseptic tool of aggression.  I heard last week from Richard Becker (ANSWER Coalition) about the impact of our sanctions on Iraq.  More than 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of these sanctions.  And now we are following that same path in Iran.

Front desk ch27Where was Becker speaking?   Unless you attended the presentation at UNM on Saturday afternoon, you only would have heard him or seen the video “Genocide by Sanctions” if you watched the IndyMedia show on Albuquerque’s public access TV Ch. 27 on Thursday evening (7-8 pm).  The mainstream corporate stations did not cover this serious discussion.  It didn’t fit within the sanitized commercial programming of KOB, KOAT, KASA or KRQE.  The Albuquerque Journal certainly didn’t cover it.

Albuquerque’s public access channels 26 and 27 have been run efficiently and economically for thirty-plus years by Quote-Unquote but now city government may lock the doors and turn off the lights.  There is a very real threat that the community will lose its public access channels, the only media that provides free studios, equipment and training to the public so that our voices can be heard, and the stories we care about can be aired.

Studio ch27     Studio 2 ch27
I naively thought public access channels were guaranteed by some FCC regulation, but in recent weeks I’ve learned there is a nationwide campaign by phone companies --- including AT&T Inc,  Verizon Communications Inc, and Qwest Communications International Inc. --- to move into the cable market.  They have their sights on PEG (public, education and government) channels.   Albuquerque is part of a much larger battle being waged in Los Angeles; Troy, NY; Tampa, FL; and elsewhere around the country.

The corporate takeover is a bit convoluted, but here’s the skinny as I understand it today.  Comcast wants the cable TV channels which were reserved for public use in the ABQ/Comcast 2002 Franchise Agreement.  That agreement doesn’t expire until October 2017, and it was codified as a city ordinance.   That means Mayor Berry and the City Administration cannot simply turn the keys over to Comcast;  the City Council must approve any amendments to the agreement first.  The battle is currently in the city council chambers where free speech advocates have eloquently pled their case.  The final decision is expected Monday, May 7.

The deal being secretly negotiated with the country’s largest and most powerful cable television operator by the Berry Administration is the transfer of operating rights of six of the nine digital cable channels reserved for public use for a small fraction of their worth.  To illustrate the size of the giveaway, note that the last sale of two commercial channels approached $30 million, but the Comcast offer for six channels is reported to be a total of $250,000.

The arithmetic stinks, but so do the bedfellows.  Mayor Berry and the Administration bypassed the Cable Franchise and Hearing Board recommendation to award the public access contract to Quote-Unquote, by creating an ad hoc group which recommended that uPublic receive the contract – the same group that was effectively “gifted” the Education Channel 95 nearly a year ago but has kept the channel dark ever since.

Another fishy piece of this puzzle.  Rick Metz, President of uPublic, had a meeting with Rob Perry, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, prior to the city issuing the RFP to operate the public access channels.

Studio 3 ch27It appears to me that uPublic is the front man for Comcast in this “deal.” If the City Council approves the amendment to the ABQ/Comcast 2002 Franchise Agreement and uPublic is awarded the public access channels, then the “deal” will strip ordinary citizens of a valuable 1st Amendment platform in Albuquerque.

This is CHINATOWN, only the battle is for broadband real estate, and not water rights; for freedom of speech, not a glass of water.  And many, many more cities around the country are also under siege, or have already lost to the Cable/Media giants.

Time for the public to rise up and tell the City Council that free speech in Albuquerque is not for sale.

April 24, 2012 at 06:14 AM in Corporatism, Government, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Television | Permalink

Comments

Our guests on IndyMedia this Thursday (7:00 pm) will give us the scoop on the threatened takeover of our community access TV station, Quote-Unquote.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Apr 25, 2012 8:28:46 AM

Tonight the ABQ City Council voted to strip the public access TV channels away from the public, and awarded the contract to a shill for Comcast. Corporate America wins again!

Posted by: Lora Lucero | May 7, 2012 11:10:52 PM

The obfuscation by 5 city council members, Rob Perry and the Berry administration is outrageous.

We need a revolt in ABQ.

Posted by: bg | May 7, 2012 11:21:16 PM