Reps Introduce PEG Protection Bill

A bipartisan pair of legislators has introduced a bill that would put content, reception and signal-quality requirements on carriage of public access and government channels and require cable operators to pay for those channels regardless of state laws "affecting cable system franchising requirements relating to support for public, educational, or governmental use of a cable system."

Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) jointly introduced the Community Access Prevention Act, which would amend the Communications Act to require that cable operators carry the channels without alteration or degradation, and make them viewable without additional equipment charges to every sub.

The bill would also require the FCC to conduct a study on the impact of state video franchise laws on PEG channels, the impact of the conversion from analog to digital, and recommend changes if necessary, with the exception that cable cannot be allowed to charge for the quality, accessibility, functionality, or placement of the channels.

American Community Television (ACT) , which advocates for PEG channel access, hailed the bill as "critical to saving hundreds of channels as well as jobs in twenty states that passed statewide or state-issued franchising laws since 2005."

The requirement of payment for PEG channels despite state laws to the contrary applies to any of those laws passed since May 2005.

"The CAP Act is critical to the survival of these important local television channels," said ACT. "We could be losing as many as four hundred PEG channels, starting now and continuing through January 2012, if we don't solve these problems."

John Eggerton

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.