Waxman Says Commerce Will Look Into Access to PEG Channels
Accessibliity considered crucial for disabled Americans
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/21/2010 6:20:32 PM
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)
called access to PEG channels an important issue and one the committee
would look into.
That came in a markup Wednesday on the 21st Century Communications and
Video Accessibility Act (HR 3101), which passed out of committee
Wednesday on a voice vote. The assurance was made to Rep. Tammy
Baldwin (D-Wis.), who agreed to withdraw an amendment to the bill on
PEG channels that could have slowed its progress. Baldwin outlined the
amendment before withdrawing it (which is away for her to make the
point without holding up the larger bill).
She had asked for assurances that the committee would take up PEG
issues "in the near future." Those issues included the move of PEG
channels from analog to digital tiers, the clustering on digital
channels on subchannels to a single, menu-driven channel, and other
moves by cable operators that that she argues can make them harder to
access, including for the disabled.
She said PEG channels "serve as a lifeline to Americans with
disabilities," helping them stay connected by monitoring and engaging
in local government and distant learning classes, or even go to church.
"While we strive for digital inclusion," she said, "we must protect
and enhance the existing access to news and civic life available to
PEG channels. Her amendment would have made sure that PEG providers
would have to meet the same standards for accessibility as broadcasters.
It would also require that subscribers be able to "rely on their PEG
channels for emergency alerts" Baldwin did not spell out exactly where
that was going with that part of the amdment, but did say that her
concern was that when PEG channels are moved from an analog to a
digital tier, "they are completely inaccessible to analog cable
customers," which she said placed "an unnecessary burden on low-income
and fixed-income individuals and families and people with disabilities."
The amendment is based on her Community Access Preservation Act (HR
3745), which she introduced last October and requires that PEG
channels be just as accessible as broadcast must-carry stations
carried on a cable system. That essentially means that to move PEG
channels to digital, an operator would have to move broadcast channels
to that tier as well. And if there are no must-carry stations, PEG
channels would have to be available to every sub at no additional
"You have raised a very important issue that we need to look at more
carefully," said Waxman, who added that he would talk with her and
committee leaders about "what we can do in this area."