Valley television stations are accusing Arizona State University of price gouging with the fees it is charging to cover the presidential debate that will be held at Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium in October.
"It’s a stick-up of the TV news media," said Dan Barr, a lawyer representing two stations. "The fees that they are charging are not rationally related to anything. It’s monopoly pricing. ‘We have the debate and if you want to come you have to pay what we want.’ "
Nancy Neff, spokeswoman for ASU, said the university is charging fees based on its $2.4 million cost for putting on the event, including an estimated $100,000 that will have to be spent to accommodate the media.
Fees for things such as space to park satellite trucks may be higher at ASU than at other universities sponsoring the presidential debates, Neff said. ASU is the only public institution putting on a debate, she said, while the other universities sponsoring debates are private, and can underwrite the costs.
"As a public institution we just don’t have that option," Neff said. "We’re not making money on this by any stretch of the imagination. We are doing everything possible so that we don’t incur any financial losses. It wouldn’t be responsible of us."
Barr said he has been contacted by KTVK-TV (Channel 3), and KPNX-TV (Channel 12) about the fees being charged television stations for space they will need to cover the debate Oct. 13. The stations are willing to pay any reasonable fees to cover their share of the university’s cost, for things such as power and phone hookups, Barr said. The fee structure in place, though, makes no sense, he said.
For instance, space for a satellite truck will cost a television network $5,000. Space for an identical satellite truck for a local network affiliate will cost $4,000.
Charges for similar space at the first presidential debate, to be held in September at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., will be $2,500 for a network satellite truck and $500 for local media affiliates, according to that university’s Web site.
Neff said ASU is building an entire temporary media center near the auditorium just for the debate.
The university is attempting to raise money to cover its other costs, including the $750,000 fee it had to pay to the Commission on Presidential Debates, through sponsorships and other donations, Neff said.
The debate at ASU will be the last between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the presumed Democratic nominee, before the Nov. 2 general election.