The city of Austin has awarded the Austin Film Society a two-year contract to take over management of the local public access channels, the film society announced Thursday.
The contract, valued at $950,000 over two years, ends a 10-year relationship Public Access Community Television, which oversaw operations and provided programming under then channelAustin banner at the facilities at 1143 Northwestern Ave. in East Austin.
But the current contract expired Sept. 30, with the Austin Film Society making the winning bid to take over management for the city, which provides three channels – 10, 11 and 16 – for subscribers of Time Warner Cable and Grande Communications.
The film society, which also runs Austin Studios in East Austin, has hired five employees to manage the contract, including three who worked for PACT.
“AFS is excited that we were chosen to manage this precious asset for Austin, through a competitive public process,” said executive director Rebecca Campbell. “We have 30 years of experience bringing the community and film together, and public access has operated for 42 years in Austin under various umbrellas. We saw this as a way that AFS could expand opportunities for the people of Austin to learn creative media skills and appreciation – increasingly necessary to flourish in today’s media-rich world.”
Mirasol Enriquez, a Texas native with a doctorate in cinema and media studies from the University of California in Los Angeles, will oversee the new department as director of community media. “Public access television is such a natural fit for us, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about the way our community is expanding,” she said.
Darla Doshier, who spent 13 years with Cable One in Houston, will manage the project. Other employess include Brian Blake, a 21-year veteran and current manager of information technology for the public access facility; Doug Gray, another former employee of channelAustin, who’ll be the community media facilitator; and Charles Wright, who’ll be the equipment and lab coordinator.
The move by the city comes after PACT took over the contract in 2005. At the time, the city was dealing with a scandal involving Austin Community Access executive director John Villarreal, who was convicted of embezzling $354,000 from the station. PACT was led by Linda Litowsky.
“For the past 10 years all of us here at channelAustin have worked hard to transform the City’s community television facilities and resources while working to re-invent public access,” the former operators said in a statement on channelaustin.org. “We are honored to have served the thousands who have walked through these doors to help bring their voices to the community and tell their stories on the public access channels.”