Public, education and government (PEG) channel broadcasters have an opportunity to make the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aware of the problems they face.
J.J. SmithOn July 20, the FCC issued its Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming, in which the FCC seeks “data, information and comment on the status of competition” in the video marketplace. The FCC is seeking comments to help with the commission’s analysis of the situation, and that can be included in the FCC’s 15th report on the issue.
The deadline to file initial comments was set for Sept. 10; reply comments—responses to comments that have been filed—are Oct. 10. PEG channel officials who missed the September deadline can still take advantage of reply comments to get their points across.
The FCC’s notice says it is seeking data from multichannel video programming distribution (MVPD) organizations—cable providers— “on the number of channels MVPDs dedicate on their respective systems to must-carry” channels, which include PEG channels and leased access channels. Among the questions listed:
- On which tier are these (PEG) channels placed and is extra equipment required to view them?
- Are there more, or fewer, PEG and leased access channels carried on MVPD systems than were carried as of June 2010?
- What data sources exist to track the availability of PEG and leased access programming?
PEG channel advocacy groups such as the Alliance for Community Media, American Community Television and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors are drafting—or have filed— comments, but individual PEG channels can submit their own comments, data and suggestions.
Of the questions listed above, the second is among the most important because it might help direct the future of PEG channels. Specifically, this is a chance for PEG channels affected by funding cuts because of state franchising of cable systems to make the FCC aware of the situation.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he is “not familiar” with the problem of loss of PEG channels due to state franchising. I find that difficult to believe, but he said it. Nonetheless, PEG broadcasters should educate Genachowski about that issue.
While the Cable Communications Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-549) does not mandate that cable systems fund and set aside channel space for PEG channels, it does allow municipal cable committees to make that decision. State franchising takes away the municipal committees. If you are unhappy about that, let the FCC know. While the commission cannot change the law, it can document how the law is affecting the PEG channels. But only if those channels communicate what is happening.