This is the letter I sent to Idaho’s House Business Committee (a copy to all 17 members) about the Idaho Video Services Act (HB410) which I think negatively affects Public Access TV:
I wish to express my concern over HB 410 not having a provision for PEG fees. I feel that public access channels need a basic and consistent revenue source and it appears HB 410 places them at the mercy of cable companies and arbitrary local politics rather than in the public domain where public access channels belong.
To quote an article on HB 410 from the Association of Idaho Cities’ web site:
“…In response to a question from Rep. Elaine Smith (D-Pocatello), Lodge explained why the legislation does not provide a fee for public, educational and government (PEG) channels.
“We tried in previous drafts to include a PEG fee, it kind of met the same fate” as the revenue definition. “It wasn’t supported,” Lodge said.
“Federal law doesn’t address directly the PEG fee issue; it allows those decisions to be made at the local level. …This legislation does not prohibit nor mandate a PEG fee and would essentially leave that decision to video service providers and local governments at the local level.”
I just feel that if left up to cash strapped local governments–with often highly charged partisan political pressures–public access channels soon would become too inconvenient to survive; the same would go for cable companies’ bottom lines as well. Free public access TV has become a valued and enjoyed part of the public landscape and, of course, that requires a basic revenue source to operate. One would, therefore, think it only reasonable that a mandated PEG be included in any legislation that could potentially undermine its existence.