February 2, 2011
Cable Assault on PEG Access Television in New Jersey No Surprise Says American Community Television
Although Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television has been in existence for over forty years, the past six years have seen an unprecedented effort by the cable industry and telecommunications companies to eliminate PEG access. But a recent attempt in New Jersey to wipe out PEG by Comcast, Verizon, Cablevision and Time Warner marks a new low by the industry.
“We’re always embattled,” said John Rocco, President of American Community Television (ACT). “We’ve had our funding eliminated in three states and it is being eliminated in six more states by January 2012, because of statewide franchising laws that were pushed by the industry.”
The deregulation legislation in New Jersey (S2664 and A3766) removes provisions in the existing law for channels, PEG support, equipment and training. ACT contacted Verizon and Comcast today asking for their assistance in correcting the legislation and could not get positive assurances that they would.
“Actually it is a surprise that Comcast would take this position given the ink is hardly dry on the conditions for PEG that they agreed to in the Comcast-NBCU merger proceeding at the FCC,” said Rocco. “Verizon, who sought this legislation, knew that it would kill our channels in New Jersey, they simply did not care. Of course Time Warner would follow suit, they’ve closed dozens of access studios around the country and are working hard on Capitol Hill to make sure we can’t get a bill to preserve PEG introduced in this session. And Cablevision made its intentions clear through the New Jersey Cable Association’s testimony.”
Along with eliminating PEG, the legislation cuts off connections to public schools and municipal buildings, something that will hit the public schools hard when they least can afford it.
“I think it’s time we call for hearings on Capitol Hill. The industry as a whole needs to be held accountable for their actions,” said Rocco. “We need to gather the entire industry together in one room and have Congress ask them why they hate local community media and why they do everything they can to destroy it. Additionally, we need the FCC to hold them accountable.”
The cable industry and telecommunications companies have spent hundreds millions of dollars in the past few years to get statewide or state-issued franchising laws passed in twenty states. In all of these states PEG access television was targeted. ACT estimates as many as four hundred channels could be eliminated because of statewide franchising laws by January 2012.
“It’s been a concerted effort that needs to be investigated,” said Rocco.
To contact John Rocco, please call 410-992-4976 or email Bunnie Riedel at firstname.lastname@example.org