Advocates for public, education and government channels have told the Federal Communications Commission about the many hours of programming aired by PEG channels — as well as the risk of channel closures in jurisdictions with statewide cable franchising laws.
Now that advocates have gone on record about this situation, the commission’s actions will reveal how highly it regards these channels.
On July 20, 2012, the FCC issued a notice of inquiry—its Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming— seeking “data, information and comments on the state of competition in the delivery of video programming.” At least 103 PEG channels responded; so did advocacy groups American Community Television and the Alliance for Community Media.
ACT’s response stressed the importance of PEG channels to their communities and said PEG channels overall produce more local programming than local broadcast stations.
“In comparison to local broadcast stations that produce approximately 1,500 hours of programming per year, government access produces 1,250 hours per year, educational access produces 1,500 hours per year and public access produces 2,000 hours per year.”
The Alliance for Community Media listed the results of an online survey in 2010 in which 208 PEG channels reported annual programming of “first run, locally- produced programs” which totaled 245,383 hours the year before. The ACM also gave the FCC a list of the 15 PEG channels with the most locally produced programming.
The average annual number of programming hours for the 208 PEG channels nearly matched ACT’s figures. Both demonstrate that PEG channels can be, and frequently are, bargains for the communities they serve.
However, at least some cable providers are not treating the PEG channels on their systems well, according to ACT. PEG channels “have been slammed to high digital tiers that require extra equipment to access.”
ACT noted that several state governments began taking over local cable franchising authority in 2005. By 2008 that trend has stopped at 20 states. But as a result, all state funding for PEG access has since been eliminated in 10 states: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Further, in those states, cable providers now are supposed to be funding the PEG channels, but PEG managers complain the cable companies are not doing so.
PEG channels are everywhere. Now that the FCC has been informed what a bargain PEG channels can be, the commission needs to acknowledge that there is more to public media than National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. The PEG channels have to be part of the FCC’s conversation on the role of public media.