WASHINGTON—New legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate last week would prevent cable TV operators from claiming the expense of public, educational and government (PEG) channels as in-kind contributions to municipalities that can be subtracted from the franchise fees they pay to local communities.
The bill, “The Protecting Community Television Act,” was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
In August 2019, the Federal Communications Commission voted to allow cable companies to designate a value for PEG channels provided to municipalities and deduct that value from the franchise fees they pay.
According to the authors of the bill, doing so puts local governments in the position of choosing between support for PEG channels covered in franchise agreements and other community institutions like schools and libraries.
The legislation makes clear the cable franchise fees only include monetary assessments—not in-kind contributions.
“We need to bolster, not weaken, support for community television stations, which is why I’m cosponsoring this important legislation,”” said Shaheen. “I’ll keep working to ensure these stations have the resources they need to continue their programming that educates and informs viewers across New Hampshire.”
Hassan noted that PEG channels are even more valuable in an era of lowered funding for news. “As far too many local news sources face cutbacks and even closure, New Hampshire’s community television stations play an increasingly essential role in providing Granite Staters with important information about their towns and cities,” she said.
Owen Provencher, president of the New Hampshire Coalition for Community Media, commended the senators for understanding the importance of PEG channels. “These hubs of community connection and engagement provide a valuable platform for access to the information cities and towns need to thrive and the opportunity to express the unique cultural needs and the voices of the people they serve,” he said.