Proposals for public access TV on agenda


Published: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 12:50 a.m.
Three proposals for a public access television station - which range in cost for the first year from about $72,000 to almost $1 million - will be presented to a joint meeting of the Gainesville and Alachua County commissions tonight.
Among those submitting proposals was Harvey Budd, who already owns local commercial television stations, and Raquel Garcia, a resident who has been a leader in the drive to create a public access station here.
Commissioners will review the proposals tonight but will not make a decision on one. Neither commission has committed to establishing a public access channel, which would be carried on Cox Cable.
The concept is already drawing some opposition from residents who fear a cable rate increase and who cite various types of programming as concerns.
Cox officials have repeatedly stated that any additional costs would be passed on in higher fees to its nearly 60,000 subscribers.
The proposals have common features. All have an advisory board and would allow programming from a wide range of groups, including churches and schools. All three would use volunteers. They also cite fund-raising possibilities to offset costs.
The least costly of the proposals was submitted by Budd. He now owns, but is in the process of selling, Gainesville affiliates for CBS and The WB, which is channel 10 in Gainesville.
Budd said he can run the station for about $72,000 a year. Budd said his cost is relatively low because he already has considerable equipment. Budd said production will be done by the groups or individuals who want to get a program on the air.
"A nonprofit board would run the station, basically. They need the staff. I'll take care of rent and all of the overhead," Budd said. "I have the infrastructure. The job of the nonprofit is to operate it and raise the money. This would be a little station. We don't know how much demand there will be."
The proposal in the middle, cost-wise, is from Ron Hebert of Clearwater. He works for Access Pinellas, a public access channel in Pinellas County, and operates PEGconsultants.com, a consulting firm for public, education and government television stations.
Hebert said he can run a station for $324,000, including the purchase of limited equipment. Hebert said he would move to Gainesville if he gets the nod.
"There is always the challenge of getting something started from the ground up. And the benefits are fantastic for the people in the community," Hebert said. "It's up to the people to decide what kind of programming they want. In general, people like a great variety of things - comedy, things about the environment, religion. It's whatever you want to do, whatever you can think to do in front of a camera whether it's been done or not."
The third proposal was submitted by Gainesville's Garcia with assistance from consultant Robert F. Sepe for the Alliance for Community Media in North Carolina.
They propose to operate the channel for a cost of $937,519. That includes salaries, equipment, studio rent, a van rental, administrative fees and other costs.
"We would have staff that actually encourages people and works with people to produce programming," Sepe said. "Having good local programming is an art. It takes the right kind of leadership, the right kind of equipment and resources. Admittedly, our proposal has the highest price tag, but I would suggest the other two are inadequate. They don't address all of the issues."
Among those opposed to a public access channel is Ray Roberts, chairman of the Alachua County Libertarian Party. He said stations elsewhere have carried graphic sexual or violent programming. He said religious programming also dominates such stations.
Ray wrote to commissioners that public access television acts to "involuntarily subsidize the speech of others that have not earned your support."
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the County Administration Building at 12 SE 1st St.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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