Democratic Sens. Worried About Dereg Impact on PEG

Most of a dozen Senate Democrats have written to ask FCC chair Ajit Pai to rethink a cable deregulation proposal they say would puts funding for public, educational or government (PEG) programming at risk, as well as connections to schools and public buildings.

The letter was headlined by Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) and signatories included Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.).

In September, the FCC voted to confirm that a local franchise authority's (LFA) ability to regulate cable service does not extend to broadband and other non-cable services, and that in-kind commitments those authorities get from providers as part of franchise agreements count toward the 5% franchise fee cap, with the exception of providing public, educational and government (PEG) channels.

But Markey and company are concerned about just how PEG will be treated.

"Currently, towns and cities across the country are permitted to require as part of cable franchise agreements that cable operators meet demonstrated community needs by setting aside channels for public, educational, or governmental (PEG) stations," they wrote. "However, the Commission’s proposal would permit cable companies to assign a value to these channels, and then subtract that amount, and the value they place on any other in-kind contributions, from the franchise fees the cable operator pays the local community."

“Our constituents watch PEG channels to monitor local government proceedings, hear the latest news from nearby college campuses, and consume other locally produced programming including emergency alerts and directives,” they wrote to Pai. “We fear this proposal will result in a dire drop in resources for PEG channels throughout the nation.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.