Why do we pay a PEG Fee on our Cable Bill?

May 13, 2009

From wikipedia:

"The 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act  said, 'A franchising authority ... may require as part of a cable operator's proposal for a franchise renewal ... that channel capacity be designated for public, educational, or governmental use.'  

PEG access may be mandated by local or state government to provide any combination of television production equipment, training and airtime on a local cable system to enable members of the public, accredited educational institutions, and government to produce their own shows and televise them to a mass audience.

Municipalities must take initiative and petition the cable operator to provide the funding for PEG access as laid out by law, but municipalities may also choose to take no action and will instead keep the franchise fees in a general fund. A municipality may also choose to allow Governmental access but not Public access or may replace it with Governmental access or may take away Public access altogether, depending on the disposition of the local government or its voters.

Municipalities have a broad spectrum of franchise agreements with cable television service providers and may not create a monopoly through these agreements. Depending on the size of the community and their contractual agreement the PEG and local origination channels may take many forms. Large communities often have a separate organization for each PEG type, smaller communities may have a single organization that manages all three. Because each organization will develop its own policies and procedures concerning the commercial content of a program, constituent services differ greatly between communities.

Public access television

Public access television channels may be run by public grassroots groups, individuals, private non-profits, or government organizations. Policies and regulations are subject to their own ordinances and community standards.

Services available at public access organizations are often low cost or free of charge, with an inclusive, content neutral, first-come, first-servedfree speech ideology. Monies from cable franchise fees are paid to government for use of right-of-ways, hopefully allowing other general fund monies to be used to operate the facilities, employ staff and trainers, develop curriculum, operate training workshops, schedule and maintain equipment, manage the cablecast of shows and publish promotion materials to build station viewership. Funding and operating budgets vary significantly with the municipality's finances. Frequently it is left to the cable franchise to determine how they operate public access. The FCC does not mandate a cable franchise to provide any of the above services mentioned.

Users of public access stations may participate at most levels of this structure to make content of their choosing. Generally, anyone may have their programming aired on a public access channel. Users are not restricted to cable subscribers, though residency requirements may apply, depending on local franchise agreements or facility policy. Many public access channels try to favor locally produced programs while others also carry regionally or nationally distributed programming. Such programming—regional, national or even international—is usually aired on a channel curated by the PEG operator, which also carries programs produced by professional producers. A show that originates outside the municipality is often referred to as "bicycled", "dub and submit", or "satellite" programming.

In the event that a public access channel becomes filled with programming, a franchise may state that more channels may be added to satisfy the demand."

-  From the wikipedia entry on Public Access TV http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-access_television on October 11, 2010


A question was raised on Front Porch Forum in the Old North End by a person on Intervale Avenue who recently called Burlington Telecom to ask about his cable bill:

I questioned the $2.63 monthly franchise fee. Who is the franchisor?
I questioned the $2.63 PEG fee. NOBODY KNOWS.
I suspect the city of Btown is ripping its citizens off.

Meghan O'Rourke, neighborhood resident and Channel 17 staff person, responded:

Thanks for bringing up the question of franchise fees and PEG access fees.  I love the chance to talk about my work.  I have been at Channel 17/ Town Meeting TV since 1992.  The station has existed here in the Old North End since 1990! 

Thanks to the contributions of cable subscribers via the PEG access franchise fees, Channel 17 and 42 other local community television channels provide training, equipment and airtime to people across the state of Vermont.  Federal laws  require that  these channels exist in exchange for the cable companies use of the public "rights of way" to string their cables.  Cable companies are then allowed to pass through a portion of this fee to subscribers--that is what you see under the line entitled PEG access fees.  In the Burlington area  5% + 1.5% of your bill goes to fund and support local access operations and equipment purchase. 

In many communities these channels are the way that folks can find out about local government or school actions, exercise their free speech rights and see their neighbors on TV.  Locally, we air the neighborhood NPA meetings, Burlington City Council, a regular call-in "Live at 5:25" program with politicians and citizens, community events and more. We are REALLY thankful for cable subscribers contributions, but more importantly so are the thousands of community members, local officials from all parties and persuasions, and non-profits that use these access centers to share with the community and learn media tools. 

To see our programming via the web and learn more visit us at www.channel17.org or stop n at 294 North Winooski ave between 9-5. These are your channels and we welcome you!