The Comcast Way: First, Kill PEG Access Television

Simultaneous to projecting itself as a corporation that has the public’s best interest at heart in order to push through approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast is waging war on public, educational and government (PEG) access television in America’s heartland.

I find it ironic that Comcast is desperately trying to position itself worthy of merger approval when in Minnesota it’s trying to cut the PEG access-support fees by 90% and reduce the number of channels by as much as 50%. Comcast is turning the idea of negotiating in good faith on its head.

On Feb. 13, Comcast announced its merger with Time Warner Cable, assuring regulators and the public that, ultimately, the combined companies would deliver a new and improved product that benefits consumers while not harming competition and consumer choices. In that same announcement, Comcast stated, “In every transaction, we have overdelivered on our public-interest commitments.”

Further in the announcement, Comcast stated: “PEG channels would be protected from migration to digital in the acquired systems that are not yet all-digital (unless otherwise agreed by the LFA), and would be protected from material degradation.”

Making a concession to a digital transition of PEG channels does us no good if those channels are stripped of their funding or reduced in number. As usual, Comcast shows open hostility toward PEG access television and shows its true colors when it comes to meeting the public interest.

There are over 40 PEG access operations in the state of Minnesota. We at American Community Television are monitoring the situation in Minnesota with interest.

Over and over again, American Community Television has learned a bitter lesson: that once a cable operator is able to run roughshod over one community, it will do the same to other communities. We believe the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department should be watching the situation unfolding in Minnesota.

John A. Rocco is president of American Community Television, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of public-, educational- and government-access television channels.