City considers dumping public access channel managers

Plagued in recent years by the specter of a high-profile embezzlement case, the nonprofit group set up to manage Carson City's public access television channels may finally be cut off.

City staff is recommending the board of supervisors not renew Carson Access Television Foundation's contract to run cable channels 10 and 26. Charter Cable provides the public access channels as part of an agreement to operate here. The city pays CATF $110,000 a year to run them.

The foundation, according to the city, has failed to meet a long list of stipulations spelled out in its contract, including too few hours of total programming, original programming and closed-caption programming for the hearing impaired.

At one point, a city report states the city "has chosen to discontinue its use of CATF's production services as a result of poor quality and lack of professionalism. The quality of these services are deemed 'inadequate.'"

President of CATF, Don Gurney, could not be reached for comment Friday but his written replies to the city's concerns indicates the organization has been cash-strapped due to debts left behind from 2003, when it was discovered that then-executive director Craig Swope had embezzled nearly $500,000.

Swope has since served a 180-day jail sentence and paid back nearly all the embezzled money.

Responses to the city's complaints also suggest a new CATF board that took over in 2004 has been struggling to rebuild the credibility lost as a result of the fiasco.

Gurney argues that the foundation has done a good job despite the distractions and difficulties.

If Carson City supervisors decide to end its association with CATF, city official Liz Teixeira said it's possible the channels could go black for a short time, "but the board of supervisors is very pro-public access and I think they would find a way (to keep the channels on.)"

The supervisors have several options if they choose not to cancel their relationship with the nonprofit, Teixeira said.

Other cities operate their own access channels without the help of an outside agency. The city could encourage the formation of another foundation, and it could ask another local public access operator, such as the Sierra Nevada Community Access Television, for help while figuring it out, she said.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at or 881-1217.


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