In the face of crippling potential budget cuts, two of Tucson's public cable-TV channels are struggling to remain alive.
Tucson12.tv and Access Tucson are in danger of losing all city funding.
On Sept. 8, the City Council voted to cut Channel 12's entire $900,000 allocation for next budget year. The council also voted to consider doing the same for Access Tucson's $300,000 in funding.
Both channels are paid for through $1.38 monthly public, educational and government fees collected from all Cox Communications customers, which delivers about $5 million to the city, $1.2 million of which went to fund Tucson12.tv and Access Tucson.
Tucson12.tv, the city-run station, is heavily involved in talks with Arizona Public Media, which produces KUAT's public-television station, about a possible merger. If it is approved, Channel 12 and its programming would come under the Arizona Public Media umbrella.
Tucson12.tv and Arizona Public Media have submitted three options, which the council will consider on Tuesday:
• For $500,000 the city can get 35 half-hours of original programming and retain eight jobs.
• For $325,000 the city can get 15 half-hours or original programming and retain four jobs.
• For $217,000 the merged programs will continue to televise the weekly council meetings and retain two jobs.
Costs would increase somewhat in the second year of the deal.
"Everyone thinks it's a good idea to form a partnership with the university and for the university to take a more active role in the community in this way," said Ann Strine, director and chief information officer of information technology for Tucson.
Access Tucson has also given the council a proposal detailing its estimated costs to televise council meetings. Access Tucson argues that, by partnering with the Joint Technological Education District, high schools and youth organizations in producing council-meeting coverage, its costs would be substantially lower than those from a merger between Tucson12.tv and Arizona Public Media .
"If I'm looking to hire a contractor, and if it's above $5,000, I have to get three bids for that," said Lisa Horner, the acting executive director of Access Tucson. "I'm asking the city to adhere to that same process for bids."
Access Tucson estimates the cost of its proposal would be $122,900 using city production resources, or $149,160 using Access Tucson resources.
Horner also cited the added value of involving youth in the government process.
Tucson city Councilman Steve Kozachik said he is unsure if opening the service to multiple bidders would require the city to hear proposals from every other interested party, jeopardizing the Nov. 1 deadline Arizona Public Media Director Jack Gibson asked the city to meet.
"We can't just drag this decision out," he said.
Councilman Paul Cunningham said he believes Tucson12.tv and Access Tucson should be combined, and let them bid on who runs it.
While the council will look at the proposals this week, the future of both Channel 12 and Access Tucson will be in limbo until Oct. 12, when City Manager Mike Letcher makes his recommendations on the proposed cuts.
Luke Money is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing at the Star. Contact him at 573-4142 or email@example.com