On Tuesday, New Mexico Republican governor Susana Martinez gave her first state of the state address. Facing a budget deficit totaling nearly half a billion dollars, Martinez called for an age of austerity in which no sector of state government would be spared. Following the lead of New Jersey governor Chris Christie and more than half a dozen other states, Martinez called for a reduction of the state’s film subsidy as one specific cut.
Under Martinez’s predecessor Bill Richardson, New Mexico’s film subsidy grew by over 66 percent to include a 25 percent tax rebate on all direct production costs in the state. With Richardson at the helm, New Mexico’s subsidy was protected even while the state faced staggering deficits. In 2010, when given the option of cutting education funding or keeping the full film subsidy, Richardson – a man who rarely shied away from the cameras himself – decided instead to cut from education funding.
Used to getting their way during the Richardson administration, New Mexico’s film industry, which is largely run by the former governor’s supporters, has waged a tough publicity campaign in opposition to Martinez’s cuts. Lending a hand in this effort is Pahl Shipley, a former Richardson spokesman and publicity director in New Mexico’s film office. In December of last year, Shipley wrote op-eds in support of the film subsidy that appeared in both the Santa Fe New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal. Shipley is now currently the executive producer for KOAT-TV, Albuquerque’s ABC affiliate.
Since beginning his work for the station in early January, Shipley has overseen the production of more than half a dozen separate news segments on Martinez’s plan to cut New Mexico’s film subsidy. One knowledgeable person, who has reviewed the news footage of those seven-plus segments, tells me that few Martinez supporters were interviewed, while the majority of those in the packages expressly touted the viewpoints of those supporting the subsidy.
In early January, when it was announced that Shipley would be taking over the executive producer role at the station, he told a reporter that his stint as a Richardson spokesman wouldn’t cloud his judgment as “[journalism] is based on accuracy, fairness and balance.” Given the affiliate’s recent coverage and the advocacy of its executive producer in favor of the previous administration’s stance with regard to the film subsidy, Shipley’s definition of “accuracy, fairness and balance” appears to be an open question.