Public-Access Protection Law Introduced

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have reintroduced thier Community Access Preservation (CAP) Act, which would ensure funding for, and access to, public, educational and government (PEG) channels.

The bill would insure that public, educational and government (PEG) channels remain on cable's basic tier and would allow PEG funding to be used for salaries, among other things. "The CAP Act involves no federal spending, will address the severe challenges faced by PEG access channels and local community media, and will save thousands of jobs across the country," according to Sen. Markey's website.

“ACT has been working with these offices and many others to create a solution that will reverse the harm done to PEG access television,” said John Rocco, president of American Community Television, in a statement. “The CAP Act is critical to the survival of these important local television channels. We are already losing channels and could lose many more if we don’t restore the intent of the Cable Act, which found PEG access television important to local communities and democracy.”

Last time around, broadcast group TVFreedom backed the bill. Broadcasters have been fighting cable efforts to include a prohibition on basic-tier status for retrans stations, so they share with PEG proponents the goal of preserving their respective basic tier positions.

Specifically, the 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, the support historically provided for PEG, or up to 2% of gross revenue — whichever is greater.

The bill could have a hard slog in a Republican-controlled House and Senate.

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.