HI: Akaku Court Motion Seeks End to Bidding Process

Posted on January 25, 2008 - 5:28pm.

from: Maui News

Akaku Court Motion Seeks End to Bidding Process

From Maui News, January 23, 2008
By Ilma Loomis

The bidding process has already been delayed more than a year, and now Akaku: Maui Community Television will seek a judge’s order to free it from competing for its contract altogether.

The operators of Maui’s public-access programming on cable television will appear before 2nd Circuit Judge Joel August at 8:15 a.m. Thursday with a request for summary judgment in its suit against the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Akaku CEO Jay April said the station will ask August to find that the state should not use a competitive bidding process to award contracts for public-access services.

“This is not something like a firetruck or a Dumpster,” he said. “This is the marketplace of ideas �” you don’t go out and procure ideas.”

Under the state law authorizing franchises for cable television, cable television companies are required to provide channels on their systems for public, educational and government access, and provide funding for operations of the public-access channels. The DCCA’s Cable Television Division issues contracts to nonprofit organizations to manage the public-access channels.

The DCCA took steps toward putting the contracts out to bid in 2006, after state procurement officials ruled the public-access services were not exempt from competitive bidding requirements. But the process was put on hold after Akaku and the Oahu operator, Olelo, filed protests.

August advised the DCCA it should write rules and criteria for a bidding process before moving ahead.

The State Procurement Office last month granted the DCCA an extension to July 15 to meet procurement requirements.

DCCA spokeswoman Christine Hirasa said the department needed the extra time to draft the rules, renew the request-for-proposals and issue the contract.

According to draft rules, possible criteria for public-access contracts include bidders’ technical experience, background in broadcast media and telecommunications, short- and long-term plans to provide public, educational and government (PEG) access services, “financial capability,” and funding requirements.

Hirasa said the DCCA is seeking approval to hold a hearing on the draft rule.

Funding for Akaku and its three sister-stations in Honolulu, Hawaii County and Kauai comes from fees paid by Oceanic Time Warner Cable, which is setting aside five channels for PEG access on its cable systems. The stations were established in the 1990s with the mandate of providing public, educational and government programming and access services.

Hirasa said the DCCA’s pursuit of a competitive bid process came in response to orders by procurement officials.

“It is not philosophy, but law as interpreted by the responsible agency that governs the department’s actions,” she said.

April objected to the state’s request-for-proposals, which he felt had been specifically engineered as a “political takedown” to force Akaku out of its contract.

But he also said the public-access management contracts should be no-bid as a matter of principal, because Akaku and its sister stations were not founded as private entities but were established by the state specifically to manage the cable channels required by the PEG-access mandate.

“I don’t feel procurement or RFP is appropriate under any circumstances,” he said.

( categories: HAWAII )