FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has told Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) that he hopes the commission will be able to deal with the issue of carriage of PEG (public, educational and government) channels "in the near future."
In a Sept. 25 response to a letter from Baldwin--both letters were published on the FCC Web site--Genachowski said that, like Baldwin, he believes PEG channels "are an important source of local programming and the Commission should ensure that the channels receive equitable treatment consistent with the Commission's rules."
A number of petitions were filed with the commission by the Alliance for Community Media and a pair of Michigan cities asking for a declaratory ruling on whether cable operators can move PEG channels within their systems, if there should be more specific rules about the signal quality of those channels relative to others, and how AT&T's U-Verse service should be defined relative to PEG requirements.
In her letter, Baldwin said the PEG problem was getting worse and the FCC needed to act. She argued that the petitions indicate AT&T and Comcast "are exercising inappropriate control over PEG channels to make them less accessible to viewers, and are claiming the right to provide PEG channels without the functionality, at a lower quality or at an effectively higher price than, for example, broadcast channels carried on the basic cable service tier."
"Staff of the Commission's Media Bureau is evaluating the record developed in the proceeding," responded Genachowski,"and I hope that the Commission will be in a position to address the issues raised in the petitions in the near future."
Comcast has argued that its migration of PEG channels to digital is part of the company's larger transition and that its move of PEG channels to a digital tier in Michigan is both legal and in the public interest.
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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.