Joanie Wedler, Chuck Lewis and Franck Facchini
Local public access TV, or public, educational and government access (“PEG”), has been in Connecticut for more than 40 years providing residents, municipalities, schools and community organizations with hyper-local programming that would not otherwise be available. PEG channels were established, as noted by the U.S. Supreme Court, in exchange for “permission to install cables under city streets and to use public rights-of way”.
In Connecticut, statutes have encouraged the formation of independent nonprofits to assume operational responsibility for PEGs. Producers of local media, using volunteers, provide alternative programming to major corporate media companies. Your PEG TV station falls into one of three categories: public, a general category for any local content, from talk shows to religious services to Memorial Day parades; educational, like high school sports, board of education meetings and school events; and government, consisting of town meetings and other municipal events. Collectively, PEG programming allows any resident to learn to produce and distribute content, to be informed and engaged with their communities.
How is PEG funded? Cable companies are required by federal and state law to carry this programming and provide adequate funding. In Connecticut, this funding is established on a per customer basis, averaging $0.68 per customer per month. A 2007 law allowed cable companies to obtain certificates allowing them to operate and occupy our public streets endlessly with virtually no oversight. The legislature did reinforce the importance and support for PEG regardless of how cable was transmitted, and PEG is the only direct benefit that is offered to cities and towns.
SB 278 Millions have already cut the cable cord with more expected, due to the high cost of cable, and migration to other services has caused a tremendous loss of operating revenue to PEGs. Supplemental fund-raising is undertaken but insufficient to make up the nearly $1.2 million recent decrease. During the pandemic, PEGs provided real-time coverage of government, health, religious, educational and community programming accessible to all. Unfortunately, PEG will soon go the way of local town newspapers unless SB 278 is enacted. SB 278 is simply amended language restoring the original funding of PEG: one fee per customer, paid for by cable companies, regardless of technology deployment. SB 278 is not a tax on the internet or anything else.
PEG won’t survive without SB 278. Don’t allow our roads to be used for free by cable companies with no funding for PEG. A failure to act will deprive residents of their right to participate in local democracy. PEG is the only obligation the cable companies have that directly benefits our communities. The time is now to save our local digital town greens.
PLEASE DON’T WAIT – CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR TO SUPPORT PEG - SB 278
Joanie Wedler, Chuck Lewis and Franck Facchini are all Executive Director/CEO’s of CT PEG TV Stations and CT Regional PEG Partners supporting this legislation.