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PEG Wish List for New Congress

Now that the 113th Congress has begun its first session, the public, education and government channel advocacy group American Community television would like to see some legislative fixes for issues that are affecting PEG broadcasters.

ACT would like some measure that restores funding for PEG channels in the 10 states that eliminated PEG funding. in defiance of the spirit of the Cable Communications Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-549) the 10 states- Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin have negotiated state franchising deals that enable the cable operators to not fund PEG channels.

The Act does not mandate funding for PEG channels — it leaves the option up to local cable franchise authorities, and apparently local means statewide — but if federal lawmakers did not care whether PEG channels receive funding, why was that stipulated in the Act?

The lack of funding in those states is forcing PEG channels to exist on reserves, and many do not expect to last for long. Atlanta’s access channel People TV is hanging on precariously until March 31 because the city agreed to partially fund the PEG channel until that date. People TV’s funding was scheduled to end on Dec. 31. In addition, funding ended Jan. 1 for Cincinnati’s media bridges, which manages that city’s PEG channels.

“We’ve got to have that funding restored in those 10 states,” said Bunnie Riedel, ACT’s executive director. “That funding is not federal or state money, there’s no government money involved, it comes from the cable operators.”

A quick fix that would help struggling PEG channels would be legislation that amends the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-104) lifting the restrictions on the use of capital reserve funds. Currently, those funds can be used only to purchase equipment or for construction. The Telecom Act needs to be changed so the funds can be used for operational expenses.

In order to help themselves, PEG channels should make their senator or representative aware of the situation, especially if a lawmaker broadcasts video messages over a PEG channel. Plenty of legislators use the PEG channels, Riedel said, such as Rep. Lee terry, R-Neb., who has a weekly show on Omaha’s Community telecast inc. 22. When they show up to do the broadcast, “take a minute to talk to them about the federal fixes,” she said.

Riedel is talking to lawmakers about the fixes. to help her make her case for PEG channels, she would like PEG operators to provide her with DVDs of legislators’ broadcasts so she can play them when meeting with lawmakers or their staffs.

Such advocacy actions — talking to lawmakers and supporting ACT’s efforts on Capitol hill — could be the “pegs” that keep a channel together.