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Engel, Lowey Lead NY Delegation in Fight to Protect Local Public, Educational, and Governmental TV Stations

Engel, Lowey Lead NY Delegation in Fight to Protect Local Public, Educational, and Governmental TV Stations

 

New York—Representatives Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey led a letter signed by 13 Members of the New York Delegation to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressing concern that the outcome of an FCC rulemaking could jeopardize funding for Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) stations.

 

On August 1, the FCC is scheduled to consider a rule that could impact funding for PEG stations. Traditionally, under the Communications Act, local governments have been able to require cable companies to contribute up to 5% of their revenue to fund PEG stations.  If the proposal currently pending before the FCC were to pass, in-kind contributions like the value of the PEG channel itself or the mandated free hookups to schools, libraries and municipal buildings, could be deducted from the franchise fees paid to local governments. The end result would be a significant reduction in funding for PEG stations in Westchester and the Bronx.

 

The full text of the letter can be found below:

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

 

As members of the New York Delegation, we are writing in response to the FCC’s Third Report and Order (MB Docket No. 05-311) regarding the way local franchising authorities regulate cable operators. In particular, we are united in our concern that the rulemaking could harm public, educational and government (PEG) stations. It is our sincere hope that you will work to ensure that the interests of local programming are protected when adopting a final rule. 

 

New York PEG channels have long served our communities by airing shows that are produced locally, highlight local news and events, and reflect the unique character of our specific neighborhoods.  PEG channels air community meetings, cover local government, and allow educational institutions to create instructive programming. They offer audio/visual career training to students, provide platforms for veterans, seniors, and others who do not otherwise have a voice, and generally help New Yorkers connect with their local governments in ways that are not otherwise available.  We are deeply concerned that the outcome of this proposal could jeopardize these important services.

 

Under the Communications Act, local governments can require as part of cable franchise agreements that cable operators meet demonstrated community needs by setting aside channels for PEG stations.  We are concerned that the FCC’s proposal would allow the cost of local channels to be deducted as an “in-kind” service from the franchise fees paid to local governments.  This loss of revenue would result in a substantial reduction of the scope of PEG channels, or in their complete loss altogether.

 

Given the importance of PEG stations to our communities across the state and the nation, we ask that the FCC work to protect their interests when adopting a final rule. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eliot L. Engel; Nita M. Lowey; Yvette D. Clarke; Adriano Espaillat; Brian Higgins; Hakeem Jeffries; Gregory Meeks; Grace Meng; Jerrold Nadler; Max N. Rose; José E. Serrano; Thomas R. Suozzi; Nydia M. Velázquez

 

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