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California Bill Limiting How PEG Channels Can Use Funds Being Amended

PEG advocate says the current bill would ‘decimate’ all uses of PEG channels other than broadcasting public meetings

A bill in the California state legislature would change California’s “sunshine laws” to direct that all of the state’s public, education and government channel funding be used solely to broadcast government meetings. Now that bill is being amended to provide “flexibility” on how the funding can be used, a staffer for the lawmaker who introduced the bill told Government Video.
California Assembly Bill 185 was introduced to ensure government transparency, says Primo Castro, the director of communications for Assembly Member Roger Hernández, D, who introduced the bill on Jan. 28, 2013. “There is an amendment in the process that would provide more flexibility for the use of the franchise fees to televise all types of programming that are typically accessed by citizens via PEG programming,” Castro adds.
Currently, the bill seeks to change Section 54953.5 of the state Government Code so that cable franchise fees “shall only be used to televise the open and public meetings of the local agency, including, but not limited to, any necessary expenses for implementing the televising of the local agency’s open and public meetings.”
In addition, the bill says, “If there are franchise fee moneys available in excess of the amount necessary to televise open and public meetings,” the local government agency can use the money “to fund live streaming of its open and public meetings on the Internet.”
The bill does say franchise fee funds can be used for “necessary expenses” including the hiring of personnel, and the purchase and maintenance of equipment, or the rental or leasing of production facilities. However that is not enough, says a California PEG advocate.
Even with the “necessary expenses” provision, the current bill will “hurt” California’s PEG channels, says William Marticorena, the president of the States of California and Nevada Chapter of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. “Because the bill requires that franchise fees go toward broadcasting and streaming of public meetings, it would certainly hurt, if not decimate all uses of PEG channels other than broadcasting public meetings,” he says.
“That PEG channels are used for many other things, such as education, community events, public access, all of those activities would be defunded from any type of governmental funds,” Marticorena says.
Nonetheless, Castro says Hernández supports “community programming in all its forms” and the assembly member’s staff is “in conversation with PEG channel advocates to provide more flexibility for the use of franchise fees to televise all PEG programming, including, but not limited to, local government meetings.”