WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) this week joined 15 of his colleagues urging the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to protect public, educational, or governmental (PEG) stations as it proposes changes to the rules governing agreements between Local Franchising Authorities and cable operators. Currently, towns and cities across the country are permitted to require as part of cable franchise agreements that cable operators meet demonstrated community needs by providing in-kind contributions that benefit schools, public safety buildings, and PEG channels. However, the Commission’s current proposal would permit cable companies to assign a value to these contributions, and then subtract that amount from the franchise fees the cable operator pays the local community. The FCC will vote on this change at its meeting on Thursday, August 1. If implemented, the Order would force local governments to decide between supporting PEG stations in cable franchise agreements and supporting other important services for critical community institutions like schools and libraries.
“[PEG] stations connect Americans to their communities, catalyze civic engagement, and keep us up to date on the local issues and activities that affect our lives,” write the Senators in their letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Your proposal would force local governments to decide between supporting PEG stations and supporting other important services for critical community institutions like schools and public safety buildings. We strongly urge the Commission to avoid any policy changes that will harm PEG channels and limit needed services to the communities we represent.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
There are more than 1,500 public, educational, and governmental studios/operations and an estimated 3,000 PEG channels in America. Religious programming represents 30 percent of local access programming. Tens of thousands of hours of programming is produced by veterans, seniors, the disabled and ethnic, minority and second language groups.
Other Senators signing the letter are Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn).