The end of 2011 also draws the curtain on scores of public, education and government (PEG) channels because many of the “statewide/state-issued video franchise” laws have created situations where cuts in funding have made it impossible for those channels to continued operation.
ACROSS THE STATES
The PEG channel advocacy group American Community Television (ACT) has listed the financial situations in nine states. By state, those situations are:
California: At least 51 PEG access centers have been shut down in California. In Los Angeles Time Warner shut down 14 public access centers and with the federal law that limits support for PEG channels to capital expenses, the municipality could not afford to fund those access centers.
Florida: All PEG channel funding ends on Jan. 1, 2012. In addition, cable operator Bright House has moved the PEG channels out of its “basic tier” of cable service into the more expensive non-basic digital tier where many customers cannot receive the channels without renting additional equipment. However, 40 percent of Bright House customers do not receive digital cable keeping PEG channels from about 170,000 subscribers in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Hillsborough County and Manatee. In addition, state law allows cable operators to conduct “pushpolling” of subscribers, and only if a majority of subscribers respond that they want the PEG channels will operators provide those channels. Communities such as Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa and Pinellas County have either lost, or are losing their funding, and the access channel in Port St. Joe is threatened.
Illinois: Comcast has notified the villages of Mundelein, Graystake, the Community High School District 128 and the Cook Memorial Library District that it will no longer broadcast village, school or library board meetings.
Indiana: Comcast has notified producers in Goshen, Hammond, Merrillville, Mishawaka, Plymouth, Portage and South Bend that it would be closing production studios and playback facilities for public access TV. However, ACT says the closing of those facilities might be in violation of the statewide franchising law.
Kansas: The has been a loss of PEG funding, and Salina Community Access Television—in a Cox service area—has lost $150,000 per year, or about a third of their budget. In addition, Cox will not continue to provide the cable drops to Salina its PEG center, or Kansas State University, unless they paid $450 per month for each drop.
Missouri: All PEG channel funding ends on Jan. 1, 2012. In addition, Charter Communications has assigned the PEG channels to the 900-channel range with the most recent re-assignment occurring in St. Louis County. Charter also informed the town of Farmington that it would lose its channel in January and that it would have to lease a channel if wanted to continue to broadcast city council meetings.
North Carolina: Statewide franchising created a PEG capital fund that promised $25,000 to each channel, but—because the number of PEG channels was underestimated—the amount distributed to each was only $6,000. However, the state legislature corrected the problem by doubling the amount of PEG support the operators have to pay. In addition, Time Warner has refused to provide channels in Nash County and Henderson, and it terminated PEG support and studios.
Ohio: All PEG channel funding ends on Jan. 1, 2012. The statewide law allows cable operators and telephone companies to charge communities for transmission of those channels, charges that can reach $100,000 per year.
Wisconsin: All PEG channel funding ended on May 1, 2011. In addition, Charter Communications attempted to reassign all the PEG channels into the 900-channel range until a lawsuit was threatened. Charter then provided the PEG channels with an analog channel, but continues with plans to permanently place the PEG channels at the 900 settings when it transitions to digital.