A Tough Time for Public Access

A Tough Time for Public Access

Between people cutting the cord and potential federal ruling changes, public access faces a tough road ahead.

The Federal Communication Commission, also known as the FCC, has decided to put forth a proposal that would cut funding for Access Television. Some of the laws would be changed. The history of FCC agreement with cable would be changing; therefore people are using less cable. According to Susan Fleischmann, Director of CCTV, 75% of its budget comes from this fund. Another change would be that cable companies would assign values to channels and call them in-kind contributions. Also, they would subtract the amount of value on in-kind contributions from the franchise fees which cable pays to the community. All of this will have an impact on CCTV. People probably will be using less cable. Streaming is fast becoming a replacement for some cable venues. Some families and individuals have cut down in signing up for cable. The seniors who come to CCTV for little or no cost classes will negatively be affected. There has become a large group of people who are producing their own shows such as religion, sports, and hypnotism, just to name a few productions which will be turned away.

The effect on the Cambridge community as a whole will be affected as well. Often times, whether it be a round table discussion, or on a producer’s show, city politicians come on the show to discuss the issues and changes of the day. Mayor McGovern and City Councilor Tim Toomey are just a few who have been on CCTV. These shows are vital in the sense that Cambridge gets information about the goings-on in their community. Another loss would be access to PEG (public educational governmental access channel) and visibility to meetings. The 1992 Cable Act became a plan allowing local and/or state authorities to regulate in any areas that the FCC did not pre-empt. Under this act, local franchise authorities have specific responsibility for regulating rates for basic service and cable equipment. The FCC proposed changes to benefit big cable and harm local access channels.

The Cable Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 will be discussed next. It was amended from the Communication Act of 1934. Part of this law prohibits cable operators from charging local broadcaster to carry their signals. The FCC adopted the regulations to implement the act and its goals.

In conclusion, we need to help keep the FCC from hurting or perhaps eliminating access to TV. Emailing FCC Commissioners would be a good start. Another option would be to send comments. Write stories about how CCTV has helped you, and what you'll miss if access is taken away.

By Richard Sheingold and Tanina Carrabotta