In a reversal, Queens Public Television eventually did air the debate it filmed Oct. 10 between major party candidates Melinda Katz and Tony Arcabascio.
QPTV changed its mind after Arcabascio, a Republican, blasted the station for deciding not to air the debate, charging that it did so under political pressure because he came across better than Katz, a Democrat.
The Queens Democratic Party, Katz and QPTV all say that charge is baseless. The station initially had said it wasn’t airing the debate because of “a technicality incurred during the recording of the candidates.” QPTV then said it decided against broadcasting the event because candidate Everly Brown, who is running on the Jobs & Education Party line, asked that it nix the broadcast because he had not taken part.
Arcabascio welcomed the station’s change of heart, announced Oct. 24.
“I’m very glad that they made that decision,” Arcabascio said. “I think it’s the right thing. I think people have the right to hear what the candidates have to say. It’s public television, and their main function is to provide information to their local community, which is Queens.”
He added that he feels bad for Brown, and reiterated that he would rather have filmed another debate with all three candidates but could not convince QPTV to do it.
Katz declind to comment after the station’s reversal, but in an interview with the Queens Chronicle editorial board held just hours before QPTV’s announcement, she had said that airing it was fine with her. Her campaign had considered putting out a statement earlier labeling Arcabascio’s charge of political intrigue “silly,” but decided against it, she added. She called his claims, first made in his own sitdown interview with the Chronicle six days earlier, a “rambling, baseless rant.”
Brown had complained to the station about being excluded after the debate was filmed and QPTV had announced that it would be broadcast a dozen times before Election Day. Cliff Jacobs, the station’s programming and access services manager, said that he and Roz Nieves, its community development manager, decided to nix the broadcasts to satisfy Brown and to adhere to the station’s principle of giving all candidates equal time, Jacobs said.
He said he and Nieves had personally invited Brown, but that the candidate then did not show up for the debate. Brown claimed that though he had been invited, QPTV changed the time at the last minute without notifying him, so he missed it.
He could not be reached immediately after QPTV’s announcement that it would air the debate after all.
In making the announcement, Jacobs laid the blame for Brown’s absence on him.
“One candidate for the office of Queens borough president, Mr. Everly Brown, was invited to take part in the debate but failed to participate thereby forfeiting his equal access or ‘equal time’ to our channel,” Jacobs said. “Once invited, it is incumbent upon the candidate to appear.
“Therefore, QPTV has decided to cablecast the Queens Borough President Candidates Debate 2013, as it was recorded, in its entirety.”
The discussion was scheduled to be shown 12 times from Oct. 27 to 31.