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Congress considering PEG channel legislation.

NLC-backed legislation to address challenges faced by public, education, and governmental (PEG) TV channels and community access television stations is gaining support in Congress.

Introduced last year by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wise.), H.R. 3745, the Community Access Preservation Act, would guarantee that PEG channels are treated the same as all other local commercial stations or network affiliates and made available to all subscribers.

These local access channels allow local governments to provide greater transparency for their citizens and locally operated channels feature programming such as school board meetings, forums, lectures and sporting and community events that would otherwise not be available to citizens. Communities also may develop programming to suit the specific needs of their communities.

"Local access channels bring unique voices, perspectives, and programming to television," said Baldwin. "The nature of television programming is changing, as are the methods in which that programming is delivered. These changes should not come at the expense of the diversity and vibrancy of local voices."

The bill does not assume a "one size fits all" PEG structure, instead leaving the decision to negotiate for PEG channels to franchising authorities and the local communities they represent.

H.R. 3745 also would allow local governments to have more flexibility in allocating funds collected from cable subscribers--funds already being collected as a monthly fee on cable bills. Currently, this fee, known as the PEG fee, may only be used for equipment or facilities needed to provide PEG programming. H.R. 3745 would allow PEG funds to be used for both capital equipment and operations.

As technology has developed, the price of equipment has fallen as a percentage of the cost to operate local access channels. With local budgets constrained, this flexibility would allow local governments to use the funds for capital equipment and operations to ensure that locally produced programming is available.

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Title Annotation:National League of Cities; public, education, and governmental
Author:Wollack, Leslie
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 26, 2010
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