The Alliance for Community Media applauds Wisconsin Congresswoman
Tammy Baldwin for introducing the Community Access Preservation
(CAP) Act of 2009 (PDF) to address the challenges faced by public,
education, and government (PEG) TV channels and community access
Nationwide, many community access television stations have been
forced to shut down or severely limit their operations as a result
of a combination of state law changes and FCC decisions, which cable
television operators are claiming permit them to eliminate funding
and important in-kind support they have traditionally provided to
local community access television channels.
In addition, several video providers have begun to carry PEG
channels differently than commercial channels, broadcasting them in
reduced resolution and in a way that makes it impossible for
subscribers to select or record them like other channels. In some
cases, customers must now pay extra fees in order to receive PEG
channels, which were intended by Congress to be available to
everyone in the community. In other cases, operators are refusing
to pass through PEG closed captioning unless a special request is
This treatment undervalues PEG channels and their viewers. "Local
access channels bring unique voices, perspectives, and programming
to television," said Congresswoman 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," Baldwin
said. "Our office has asked the FCC to address some of these issues
immediately. However, while we continue to urge the FCC to act, the
FCC cannot address all the immediate problems, and it is important
for Congress to do so."
PEG channels connect residents with their local government in much
the same way C-SPAN connects people to activities in Congress.
Local school districts operate channels to reach the community with
school board meetings and forums, interviews, lectures, and sporting
events not otherwise seen on television. Additionally, community
public access stations provide a place where residents can learn
video production, check out equipment, and create their own
programs. According to a survey conducted by the National
Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, religious
programming represents 20-40% of the content appearing on local PEG
While the mistreatment of PEG is being challenged in the courts and
the FCC, many communities and PEG stations are not in a position to
protect their interests effectively.
The Community Access Preservation (CAP) Act addresses four immediate
issues facing PEG (summary). The CAP Act would:
Allow PEG fees to be used for any PEG-related purpose
Require PEG channels to be carried in the same manner as local
Require the FCC to study the effect state video franchise laws have
had on PEG, and require operators in states that adopted statewide
franchising to provide support equal to the greater of the support
required under the state law, or the support historically provided
for PEG, and
Make cable television-related laws and regulations applicable to all
landline video providers.
"Decisions at the state and federal level have combined to create a
crisis for PEG. With the CAP Act, Rep. Baldwin effectively
addresses the most immediate problems and opens the door to the
future by preserving support for PEG while the FCC conducts its
study. This bill is critical to us. Wisconsin's rich community
access heritage is on the line," said Mary Cardona, Executive
Director of the Wisconsin Association of PEG Channels..
"Community Media has a four decade history of connecting communities
with their governments, schools, churches, friends and neighbors.
The future existence of community media is being threatened against
the intent of Congress for localism and diversity of voices in
media. With the CAP Act, Rep. Baldwin addresses immediate needs to
preserve and protect the important role PEG channels play in
advancing democratic ideals through community uses of media," said
Matt Schuster, Chair, Alliance for Community Media.
Baldwin's legislation is supported by the Alliance for Community
Media (public policy platform) and the National Association of
Telecommunication Officers and Advisors.