FCC’s Video Competition Notice Spurs PEG Channel Groups’ Responses

The ‘Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming’ seeks comments
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Leading public, education and government (PEG) channel organizations are working on responses to the Federal Communications Commission’s call for comments on the state of competition in video programming.

Officials for PEG channel groups are preparing responses to the FCC’s “notice of inquiry”—the Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming—that was issued July 20, 2012.

The FCC’s notice of inquiry “solicits data, information and comment on the state of competition” in the video marketplace to help with the commission’s analysis of the situation, and which can be included in the FCC’s 15th report on that issue. The deadline to file initial comments is Sept. 10, 2012, and the deadline to file reply comments is Oct. 10, 2012, the notice says.

In addition, because satellite television and telephony video has grown among consumers, the FCC is seeking comment on how those services are affecting competition in video programming. “We seek to collect data to gain further insight into such areas as the deployment of new technologies and services, as well as innovation and investment in the video marketplace,” the notice says.

“The entry of each new delivery technology provides consumers with increasing options in obtaining video content. We therefore request comment on industry structure, market conduct and performance, consumer behavior, urban-rural comparisons and key industry inputs for video programming,” the document says.

The notice also seeks data from “multichannel video programming distribution” (MVPD) organizations (cable providers), “on the number of channels MVPDs dedicate on their respective systems to must-carry” channels, which are PEG channels and leased access channels. Among the questions the FCC lists in the notice are:

  • On which tier are these channels (the PEG and leased access channels) placed and is extra equipment required to view them?
  • Are there more, or fewer, PEG and leased access channels carried on MVPD systems than were carried as of June 2010?
  • What data sources exist to track the availability of PEG and leased access programming?

Bunnie Riedel, the executive director of American Community Television (ACT) says ACT’s comments will emphasize “the value” PEG channels provide to the cable industry, specifically in the area of competition.

The cable industry “loves PEG,” particularly when compared to satellite providers because satellite systems do not have local channels, Riedel said. PEG channels “get used (by cable providers) to promote being able to see the city council meetings,” she said. ACT’s comments are “going to emphasize that we give the cable industry a certain amount of advantage because with satellite you don’t get those local programs,” she added.

Steve Traylor, executive director of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), said the association is going to address the question “are there more or fewer PEG stations than there were in 2010?” along with how statewide franchising of cable operators is affecting PEG operations in the states that have implemented such franchising.

Statewide franchising policies are “causing some problems where states are passing laws that are prohibiting communities from building up their own (PEG channel) networks,” he said. Taking the local governments out of the ability to provide competitive services is definitely influencing the competition in communities, he added.

Greg Morrison, manager of membership services for the Alliance for Community Media (ACM), said the alliance is working on comments to submit, but it is too early to say what those comments will be. However, the ACM is “going to comment specifically on the PEG section” of the notice, he said.


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PEG Gets Short Shrift in FCC Report

Out of 105 organizations that responded to the FCC’s call for comments for inclusion in the 15th report to Congress on the “Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming” issued July 20, 2012, at least 83 were public, education and government channels, or PEG-related groups.