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MCNBRIEFS

Mayors Plug PEG Change 

WASHINGTON — U.S. mayors want to take cable operators out of the equation when it comes to deciding how public, educational and government (PEG) channels use their money, which comes from cable franchise fees.

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting last month, mayors agreed on a resolution asking Congress to change the law that now requires those monies to be used only for capital expenditures, and not ongoing operations, unless a franchisee agrees.

The mayors said restrictions on the use of PEG money have led to the closing of more than 100 PEG access centers — where the community can produce programming — and to hundreds of PEG channels going dark on the last decade.

The mayors said PEG channels are the “primary vehicle” for localism by supplying “vital local government information, educational content, civic and cultural information and religious and political expression to residents in local communities across America.”

Herring High on AT&T-DirecTV

WASHINGTON — Count Herring Networks president Charles Herring among those supporting an AT&TDirecTV merger.

According to Federal Communications Commissions documents, Herring, whose company owns AWE, the former WealthTV, and One America News Network, met with Republican commissioner Ajit Pai to sing the praises of telco video in general and AT&T in particular. Herring talked about the “positive experiences and the fair consideration extended by the telco video providers when seeking distribution, including and specifically AT&T Uverse TV,” which carries the channel.

He urged the FCC to act swiftly to approve the proposed merger.

EWTN Wins Healthcare Injunction

WASHINGTON — EWTN, the Catholic programming network, has been granted an injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit preventing the government from enforcing the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive services mandate.

The decision came the same day the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. v. Sebelius that the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates the law when applied to “closely held” corporations, though the court did not get to the First Amendment issues raised by the mandate.

A U.S. District Court judge on June 17 had ruled that EWTN was subject to the mandate that it provide coverage of “contraception, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization as part of its employee health care coverage,” the network said in a statement.

While the Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby didn’t resolve the EWTN case, the network said, it “recognizes that business owners don’t give up their religious freedom when they start a business.”

The injunction means EWTN does not face $35,000-per-day fines for not adhering to the mandate, which would have been levied starting July 1, said EWTN. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represents both arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and EWTN, as well as other parties in the dozens of lawsuits filed against the contraception mandate.

“This has been a very good day for religious liberty in America,” said EWTN chairman Michael P. Warsaw. “The Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case was a great affirmation of the constitutional right to freedom of religious expression.”