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FCC Franchise Vote ‘Treats Local Communities With Contempt’

Community broadcasting supporters say loss of funds could lead to PEG “extinction."

In an op-ed in Current this week, leaders of local community access TV criticized the FCC’s vote last week to deregulate local cable franchise fees that they say could threaten the future of PEG (public, educational, governmental) channels. 

In the column, Ernesto Aguilar, program director for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Mike Wassenaar, president/CEO for the Alliance for Community Media, said the FCC’s move could “devastate” PEG stations, adding that current trends in media consolidation and a decreased public trust in the media are proof enough that access to local news and information is more vital than ever. 

“PEG stations supported through the fees have widely been considered a hallmark of media localism,” the writers said. “For the elderly, working people, students and everyone, PEG channels have been a window into the intricacies of City Hall, the classroom of a town’s college and the insightful, creative journalism and storytelling offered on public-access television.”

A local PEG channel’s airing of candidate forums and public meetings can help spur public interest in elections, especially in rural communities that don’t have local broadcast affiliates, they said, citing numerous examples of PEG channel programming that have helped “reignite waning interest” in local elections.  

“Now multiply that success to 1,500 channels across the country,” they wrote. “All of these affected cities are at risk because of the FCC order, which treats local communities with contempt.”

The op-ed is available here.

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