American Community Television Calls on the FCC to Require Comcast to Treat PEG Channels Fairly as Condition of the Comcast NBC Universal Merger

In reply comments filed yesterday with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the Comcast NBC Universal merger, American Community Television (ACT) said “We believe Comcast’s “Commitments” to PEG access in this proceeding are carefully crafted to effectively enable Comcast to disadvantage PEG channel placement, subvert public access to government and educational programming, and discriminate against PEG content in On Demand platforms.”

Comcast had filed comments in its application to merge with NBC Universal that included two “Commitments” to Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access programming.  Commitment #11 promised that Comcast would not move PEG channels into the digital tier until the entire system was digital and Commitment #12 promised to “enhance localism” by providing PEG channels a new On Demand platform.

“What is stunning in Comcast’s commitments is what they don’t say,” said John Rocco, President of ACT.  ”First, Comcast does not guarantee PEG channel placement on the basic digital tier which is a huge problem we are facing in communities with cable operators slamming PEG channels into the 600′s and 900′s, where nobody goes and it requires additional equipment and expense to get the channels.”

The comments say that ACT has no reason to believe that in the digital environment Comcast will not condemn PEG channels to a digital Siberia. This is particularly important given that PEG channels are highly popular among elderly populations who may not have the ability to navigate complicated menus or the income to support higher-priced service tiers. “The second omission is that Comcast doesn’t mention Public access at all, only government and educational access,” said Rocco.  ”That is no accident; the writers of Comcast’s comments knew exactly what they were doing.  Comcast has always been antagonistic toward Public access.  It took activists in their corporate hometown of Philadelphia twenty-seven years to get Public access because Comcast fought Public access every step of the way.” ACT’s reply comments say that they are very concerned with 1) Comcast’s apparent exclusion of public access in its mission to promote localism, 2) the suggestion that Comcast will develop On Demand and On Demand Online support for PEG that is different from On Demand platforms for other programming types, and 3) the probability that Comcast will force PEG programming to On Demand in lieu of full channel support. ACT’s comments support the previous comments filed by the National Association of Telecommunication Officers and Advisors and call on the FCC to champion PEG access television in this merger process.   To reach John Rocco, call 410-992-4976 or email john@acommunitytv.org To read the full reply comments go to http://www.acommunitytv.org/thefcc.html

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