Baldwin PEGs new bill on House agenda


US Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) wants to make sure that public access remains a part of most MVPD lineups, even as the way in which such MVPDs are regulated undergoes a steady progression of change thanks to the introduction of telco competition.

A big concern is the migration of local franchising authority rights from municipal and county governments up to the state level. This has been mainly done at the request of the incoming telcos, who argue that they need to move quickly to compete with and lower the prices of entrenched cable systems, quicker than is possible if they have to negotiate with each and every community served (as the cable companies did).

Baldwin is concerned that public, education and government (PEG) access channels are in danger of being negotiated away, or of losing adequate support from MVPD operators, whether cable or telco, and would put in establish minimum federal standards.

Here is what her bill, The Community Access Preservation (CAP) Act (H.R. 3745) would do:

* Allowing PEG fees to be used for any PEG-related purposes;

* Requiring PEG channels to be carried in the same manner as local broadcast channels;

* Requiring the FCC to study the effect state video franchise laws have had on PEG channels, and requiring operators to provide the greater of the support required under state laws, or the support historically provided for PEG; and

* Making cable television-related laws and regulations applicable to all landline video providers.

 “Local access channels bring unique voices, perspectives, and programming to television,” said Baldwin. “The nature of television programming is changing, as are the methods in which that programming is delivered. These changes should not come at the expense of the diversity and vibrancy of local voices.”

RBR-TVBR observation: PEG channels have widespread and vocal support among local politicians and government officials, educators and other watchdogs. But it’s the rare average TV viewer that has one programmed into the remote control.

We certainly see the value of these stations, and have even been known to tune one in once in awhile, but we don’t go there often and suspect that the fact that we do at all puts us in a significant minority.

The internet is also capable of handling many of the functions PEG channels were created to handle back when cable was young and there was no internet to speak of.

We support the concept of PEG channels and would agree that some local access should be preserved for local governments among the hundreds of channels most MVPDs have to program. Of course, there are a lot of other uses to which the MVPD operators would like to put their capacity, so a balance does need to be struck. You’d think two or three channels would be an adequate supply – is everybody cool with that?