Legislators Reintroduce Bill to Protect Community Television

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Representative Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-04), chair of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, have reintroduced the Protecting Community Television Act.

The legislation would ensure that community television operations continue to receive the resources they need to educate and inform viewers in the cities and towns where they operate, the legislators said. 

Currently, local governments are permitted to require, as part of cable franchise agreements, that cable companies meet demonstrated community needs by providing in-kind contributions that benefit schools, public safety buildings, and public, educational, and government (PEG) channels, also known as community television stations. 

However, in August, 2019, the FCC voted to permit cable companies to assign a value to these contributions and then subtract that amount from the franchise fees the cable operator pays the local community. As a result, local governments have to decide between supporting PEG stations in cable franchise agreements and supporting other important services for critical community institutions like schools and libraries.

The Protecting Community Television Act clarifies that the franchise fees that cable companies provide local governments only include monetary assessments, not in-kind contributions.

“Throughout the ongoing pandemic, viewers in Massachusetts and across the country have relied on community media to stay safe, healthy, and informed,” said Senator Markey. “I’m proud to re-introduce the Protecting Community Television Act because, in this era of increased media consolidation and globalization, it is critical that we preserve the PEG operations that lift up local voices and air the programming that is most relevant to the lives of our family members and neighbors. I thank Congresswoman Eshoo, Senator Baldwin, Congressman DeFazio, and all of our cosponsors for their partnership on this important legislation.”

“Community television is a critical part of our society, giving a voice to nonprofits, artists, local governments, and other community members who otherwise struggle to be heard,” said Representative Eshoo. “The Trump FCC’s actions on cable franchise fees have hurt public, educational, and governmental television, and this harms communities. I’m proud to introduce legislation with Senators Markey and Baldwin, and Congressman DeFazio that [would] reverse these harmful agency actions and protect community television by ensuring local voices have the platform they deserve.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) have also co-sponsored this legislation.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.