Massachusetts US Senator Ed Markey supports PEG Access
Here's what you need to know about preserving cable access stations like MCTV that provide local programming and coverage that you can't get on other television stations.
1. A statement from Senator Markey
2. Talking points from American Community Television, a nationwide cable access advocate
3. Federal Commications Commisssion (FCC) current language about cable access.
When you've educated yourself about this critical issue, consider contacting your Congressional delegation. Support them in advocating for local TV by emailing them:
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Washington - U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Edward Markey (D-MA) today introduced the Community Access Preservation (CAP) Act, legislation to ensure public access to local television programming.
“The 80-plus public, educational, and governmental access channels in the state of Wisconsin deliver invaluable public programming on a daily basis, commercial free and with the sole purpose of informing and educating our communities,” said Baldwin. “As local budgets tighten and television delivery methods change, we must ensure that our local public access channels are able to continue to reflect local interests and bring diverse programming to the public.”
"PEG access stations are televised town squares where local citizens can see and hear what is happening in their own community, and respond with their own voices to the issues affecting their cities and towns,” said Markey. “I have long admired the goals of education and participation heralded by these TV channels, and I will continue to support the work of these vital local resources."
Across the country, there over 2,000 public, educational, and governmental (PEG) studios/operations and an estimated 5,000 PEG channels. In a time of media consolidation, these local, non-commercial access channels bring unique voices, perspectives, and programming to communities. Local school districts operate PEG channels to feature school board meetings and forums, homework helpers, interviews, lectures, and sporting events not otherwise broadcast on television. And religious programming represents 20-40 percent of local access programming.
PEG channels receive no federal funding. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 grants municipalities the right to assess a small franchise fee, which is paid to local or state governments to support community media centers. Several states, while intending to preserve PEG and community media, have adopted statewide video franchising standards that have devastated PEG funding. Since 2005, PEG access channels have suffered severe setbacks as a result of these statewide franchising laws passed in 23 states. These laws took away a local community’s ability to negotiate with cable operators, resulting in six states - Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, and Missouri - losing all funding for PEG channels in 2012. In addition, in 2007, the FCC ruled, subject to some important exceptions, that PEG franchise fees could only be used for facilities and equipment, and not for operating expenses. As a result, many communities are closing PEG facilities because, while they have equipment, there are no funds to operate them.
The CAP Act amends the Cable Act to ensure that PEG fees can be used for any purpose, including paying employee salaries. The legislation reaffirms that cable operators must deliver PEG channels to subscribers without additional charges, and via channel placement with the same quality, accessibility and functionality as provided to local television broadcast stations. Finally, it requires operators to provide the support required under state laws, or the support historically provided for PEG, or up to 2 percent of gross revenue, whichever is greater. The CAP Act costs nothing, will address the severe challenges faced by PEG access channels and local community media, and will save thousands of jobs across the country.
“Congress, through the cable acts of 1984 and 1992, intended to make sure that local communities could have PEG access channels and funding in return for the cable operators’ use of public rights-of-way,” said John Rocco, President, American Community Television. This legislation will restore what Congress intended and helps to secure a local community’s ability to use these channels to communicate. We want to thank Senator Baldwin and Senator Markey for working together to save these channels.”
“Wisconsin needs the CAP Act,” said Mary Cardona, Executive Director of Wisconsin Community Media. “In 2007, state franchise legislation eliminated PEG funding. Since then, citizen-produced local programming has withered while local governments strive to retain coverage of local affairs. Some key public access centers in the state have closed their doors. The CAP Act will restore support for the community programming residents want. The continuing erosion of community television services in the state has been of great concern to Wisconsin Community Media and we could not be more thrilled at the re-introduction of the CAP Act by Senators Baldwin and Markey.”
“In a time when religious programming face increasing challenges to its voice being given an equal platform, PEG channels offer a venue for these programs to be accessed,” said Bishop John C. Wester, Diocese of Salt Lake City and chair of the USCCB Committee on Communications. “This is of particular importance for the elderly, disabled or homebound who long to remain connected to their religious communities but are unable to take part in their religious or community activities.”
The CAP Act is supported by the Alliance for Community Media (ACM), American Community Television, The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), The National Association of Counties (NACo), The National League of Cities, The United States Conference of Mayors, Americans for the Arts, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
1. Removes the distinction between "capital" and "operating" in PEG support fees.
PEG support fees that are collected from subscribers by the cable operators can only be used for "capital and equipment" and not for operational overhead. We need to eliminate that part of the Telecommunications Act that prevents PEG centers from using PEG support for their operating expenses. Right now, access centers are closing their doors because even though they receive money for buildings and equipment, they do not have or are losing money for operations. The CAP Act will allow centers to spend the PEG support fees as they see fit to keep the centers open and keep the channels on the air. The CAP Act will save or create over 8,400 jobs nationwide.1
2. Make sure local governments can secure funding for PEG channels in exchange for cable operators’ use of public rights-of-way and makes sure local government can have PEG channels.
For twenty-seven years, federal law has recognized the importance of allowing local government to ask cable operators for PEG channel funding in exchange for use of local rights of way. The CAP Act restores that ability to local government subdivisions in those states that passed statewide/state-issued franchising laws. We must provide that PEG channels will receive funding equal up to the historical support it received prior to the damaging statewide/state issued franchising laws2--OR—up to the amount that operators are required to pay under the new statewide/state issued franchising laws—OR up to 2% of the gross revenue of the cable operator--whichever is greater. It also makes sure local government can get a PEG channel if they do not have one, up to three.
3. Make sure that cable operators transmit the PEG channels without charge to the local government.
This is an important point because in several places cable operators are claiming they can charge local governments for the transmission of the channels. Cable operators are demanding several thousand dollars per year per channel for transmission. This must stop!
4. Make sure that PEG channels are available on the Basic tier of service and available to all subscribers without need for additional equipment in order to get them.
PEG channels in various states have been moved to the high digital tier, out of reach for those who have Basic cable. We must ensure that PEG channels will be available to every subscriber without the need for additional equipment. In some places, cable operators are charging five dollars or more per month for this additional equipment. Cable subscribers should have access to PEG programming without having to rent additional equipment.
For more information on the CAP Act, go to American Community Television’s website at http://www.acommunitytv.org or call 410-992-4976.
1 Jobs Survey conducted by ACT July 2010 2 In states that have passed such laws since 2005.
Pursuant to Section 611 of the Communications Act, local franchising authorities may require cable operators to set aside channels for public, educational, or governmental ("PEG") use.
Public access channels are available for use by the general public. They are usually administered either by the cable operator or by a third party designated by the franchising authority.
Educational access channels are used by educational institutions for educational programming. Time on these channels is typically allocated among local schools, colleges and universities by either the franchising authority or the cable operator.
Governmental access channels are used for programming by local governments. In most jurisdictions, the local governments directly controls these channels.
PEG channels are not mandated by federal law, rather they are a right given to the franchising authority, which it may choose to exercise. The decision whether to require the cable operator to carry PEG channels is up to the local franchising authority. If the franchise authority does require PEG channels, that requirement will be set out in the franchise agreement between the franchising authority and the cable operator.
Franchising authorities may also require cable operators to set aside channels for educational or governmental use on institutional networks, i.e., channels that are generally available only to institutions such as schools, libraries, or government offices.
Franchising authorities may require cable operators to provide services, facilities, or equipment for the use of PEG channels.
In accordance with applicable franchise agreements, local franchising authorities or cable operators may adopt on their own, non-content-based rules governing the use of PEG channels. For example:
Federal law permitted a cable operator to prohibit the use of a PEG channel for programming that contains obscene material, sexually explicit conduct, indecency, nudity, or material soliciting or promoting unlawful conduct. However, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that this law was unconstitutional. Therefore, cable operators may not control the content of programming on public access channels with the exception that the cable operator may refuse to transmit a public access program, or a portion of the program, which the cable operator reasonably believes contains obscenity.
PEG channel capacity that is not in use for its designated purpose may, with the franchising authority's permission, be used by the cable operator to provide other cable services. Franchising authorities are directed by federal law to prescribe rules governing when this use is permitted.
Any questions or comments about PEG channels on a particular system should be directed to the cable operator or the local franchising authority, and not to the Federal Communications Commission. The name and telephone number of your franchising authority should appear on your cable bill, or should be available through your cable operator. With very limited exceptions, the Federal Communications Commission is not responsible for enforcing the federal statute governing PEG channels.
- FCC -
Posted: to General News on Wed, Dec 18, 2013
Updated: Wed, Dec 18, 2013