FCC Attempt to Limit Fees Could Distress Communities

The leader of a national public media organization decried a Federal Communications Commission decision Friday that could hit community television and websites in their pocketbooks.

“It’s bad for local communities. It will cause financial distress for some local governments. And I think it will cause pressure for some local communities to either limit or curtail their community TV operations,” said Mike Wassenaar, president and CEO of the Alliance for Community Media.

The decision involved new rules that the FCC said would promote high-speed Internet by limiting the fees local governments can charge cable systems.

According to the FCC, local governments have been charging the fees, capped at 5 percent, as well as insisting on in-kind services, such as free cable connections to community buildings or wi-fi projects to help seniors.

The FCC called those services “overreach” that discourage the extension of broadband. The decision means the in-kind services should be included in the 5 percent cap.

Comcast issued this statement:

We applaud the FCC’s approval today of items that will continue to ensure broadband investment and deployment.  We commend the FCC for reaffirming the statutory limits on franchise fees and continuing its efforts to address regulations that hinder investment in broadband and other services and harm consumers. We also support the FCC’s action to establish the Digital Opportunity Data Collection.  It is a realistic solution to address the shortcomings of current broadband maps, while ensuring that ongoing efforts to close the digital divide occur without unnecessary delay.

The fees pay for public, educational and government channels, or PEGs. The decision could affect Montgomery Community Media and programs like the weekly public affairs program “21 This Week,” the financial affairs show, “Manage Your Damn Money,” and “Jazz Encounters,” which has new episodes about every month.

Nannette Hobson, chief executive officer of MCM, issued this statement:

Obviously, we are extremely disappointed in the new FCC ruling that undermines the work we do by eliminating funding.  Public, education and government (PEG) channels such as MCM provide vital local government transparency and information.  Our programs reflect the self-determined identities of our diverse local citizens and communities.

As we closely watch the next steps of this process, we sincerely hope people will stand up and fight for their right to have access to public media platforms, training and facilities.

Wassenaar said there’s a need for local information that the order ignores.

“PEG channels provide that kind of information, at a time when newspapers are closing every day,” he said.

And the changes will not result in lower bills for consumers, Wassenaar said. Instead, the cable companies will charge local governments the in-kind services, which had been negotiated previously.

“You had a history of agreement and compromise between local government and cable companies. The FCC wants to make local governments look like a bunch of crooks,” he said.

Like this post? Sign up for our Daily Update here.
Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


| Comments are closed.

Engage us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter