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Getting Another CAP Act Bill

Video Agenda

With the end of 2012, the U.S. Congress’ 112th session passed into history, taking with it all its unfinished bills, including the proposed Community Access Preservation Act (H.R.1746). That bill sought to “establish signal quality and content requirements for the carriage of public, educational and governmental channels, [and] to preserve support of such channels.”

The CAP Act—which was introduced into the House on May 5, 2011 by then-Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who is now a senator—seeks to restore PEG funding eliminated by some state laws, allow PEG funding to be used for operating expenses, prevent operators from discriminating against PEG channels, and make it clear that any entity that provides video services on cables deployed over streets needing the right of way granted by a municipal authority is subject to the Cable Act’s PEG provisions.

Because Baldwin is now a senator, a search is underway to find a new sponsor in the House. However, no Capitol Hill staffers have been charged with that task. Rather, Bunnie Riedel, the executive director of the PEG advocacy group American Community Television has agreed to search for a new sponsor, according to Baldwin’s staff.

Yes, Riedel is canvassing Congress, meeting with senators’ and representatives’ staffers, trying to convince them why the lawmakers they work for should sponsor the CAP Act. Riedel’s plan is to focus on members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees bills that affect broadcasting and is led by Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. In addition, such bills are referred to the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which is led by Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.

While the CAP Act bill from the 112th Congress had 26 co- sponsors in the lower chamber, Riedel is “trying to nail down the Republicans in the House,” who hold the majority. “We’re going back to the committees all over again to see who we can get.”

Meantime, it is taking time to find a sponsor in the Senate because Baldwin will not introduce a PEG-related bill in that body because she is not assigned to a committee that oversees broadcasting. “The way the Senate works, bills are not introduced on a subject that is outside of a senator’s committees,” Riedel said. That makes working both houses of Congress something of a balancing act, she said.

By comparison, the cable industry, which opposes the legislation, has more lobbying resources and seems able to “move stuff,” Riedel said. “I have to go on a ‘proving mission’ with Congress, which means it’s up to me to prove there are people in the states who are in favor of this bill,” she said, and that is where she could use some help.

Government Video urges PEG channel operators to get involved and contact their representatives and senators and tell them why the bill is needed. PEG operators who do not want to face a funding crisis need to make their voices heard, and they can do that by calling, visiting or writing—or all three—their lawmakers. Or, as Riedel puts it, “If this [PEG] is important to you, that’s the step [getting involved] you’ve got to take.”