Protect PEG from FCC Rulemaking

On September 25, the FCC issued proposed rulemaking (Docket 05-311) that could have a catastrophic impact on Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) cable access channels and media centers around the country. If these rules pass, it could have a disastrous impact on Marin TV and the Community Media Center of Marin. We are calling on all supporters to take a moment to file comments with the FCC expressing your disapproval of their proposed actions. Instructions for filing comments are available on this page (https://cmcm.tv/fcc_comment). Initial comments must be filed by Wednesday, November 14, Reply comments can be filed through December 14.

What's at stake?
The new FCC rulemaking allows cable companies to assess the value for 'in kind' services related to providing PEG channels and deduct that amount from the Franchise Fees passed to cities. These loosely defined 'in kind' costs can include the 'value' of the cable channels themselves as well as any other services provided (such as institutional networks, channel programming guides, cable drops to fire stations, schools, etc). The FCC fails to set any guidelines or limitations to the values that cable companies can assess and it's conceivable that cable companies could zero out franchise fee payments to cities entirely with arbitrary value assessments. The FCC rulemaking could force cities to reconsider their use of PEG channels in order to maintain their current franchise fee levels. This pits the interests of cities against the interests of their communities simply for the benefit of cable company profits.

Background
In the Cable Act legislation of 1984, Congress wisely established Franchise Fees and PEG Fees as a condition for cable operators providing commercial cable TV services. Franchise fees are often described as 'rent' for the commercial access and use to the public right of ways within a municipality. These fees help cover the associated costs to cities from cable TV installations and also help fund other municipal public services. PEG fees can optionally be established by a municipality to provide for the capital equipment necessary to the operations of local PEG channels. Both Franchise and PEG fees are public interest obligations that ensure the commercial media being pumped into residents homes is balanced by meaningful non-commercial locally originated content. Non-commercial PEG channels are unique, they provide an important means of free speech via the public channel, government transparency and communication with residents via the government channel and an educational channel available for use by local schools and universities. It's important to note that Cable companies do not pay Franchise or PEG fees, these fees are paid by cable subscribers and merely pass through the cable companies to the cities. The new FCC rulemaking will not change the amount currently charged to cable subscribers, it merely allows cable companies to keep this money.

This FCC rulemaking comes on the heels of the recent 5G rules by the FCC. Those rules establish expedited permitting for telephone providers to install 5G microwave units (pizza boxes) in communities around the country. That rules also reduce the permit fees that can be charged, an estimated loss of 4 Billion annually to cities. In addition, cities lose control over the locations of the placement of these units, in effect losing the ability to effectively manage the public right of way. The current cable related rulemaking (05-311) is seen by many observers as the reciprocal payback to cable companies by a FCC majority that favors corporate profits over the public interest.

Important Links
File an Express Comment with the FCC for Docket 05-311
https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express

Read the FCC Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Second FNPRM),
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-18-131A1.pdf

Read Comments already filed for RM 05-311
https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?limit=25&offset=0&proceedings_name=05-311&sort=date_disseminated

LEGAL BACKGROUND
Summary of FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding In-Kind Contributions as Applied to PEG Channels - Cohen Law Group
http://www.massaccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/v2.0_summary-of-fcc-nprm-re-peg-channels-10-16-18-copy.pdf

PRESS
Is Community Access TV On The FCC Chopping Block? WGBH
https://www.wgbh.org/news/commentary/2018/11/28/is-community-action-tv-on-the-fcc-chopping-block

Media Alliance Article on this FCC Action
https://media-alliance.org/fcc-threatens-governmental-and-public-channels/

A Proposed FCC Rule Change Could Put An End To Local Access TV Stations
https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2018/11/12/an-fcc-rule-change-could-put-an-end-to-local-access-tv-stations

FCC is at it again: Proposed changes to benefit big cable, harm local access channels
https://theberkshireedge.com/fcc-is-at-it-again-proposes-changes-to-benefit-big-cable-harm-local-access-channels