FCC Rule Change Could Limit Funding For Public Access Programs

Nov 12, 2018

The Federal Communications Commission is moving to adopt a new rule that could reduce local programs on cable television. 

Cable companies have long offered free public access channels as part of their contracts with cities and towns.

A proposed rule would let cable companies put a value on those channels, and subtract that amount from the franchise fees they pay to communities.

And that could result in a lot less money for public access programs, says Chris Collins at Frontier Community Access Television in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

“The real effect of this won't be felt until the funding dries up, and cable access stations go away, and people start wondering, ‘Why aren't we seeing our select board meetings? Why aren't we seeing gavel-to-gavel coverage of local government?” Collins said.

Proponents of the rule change, according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, call community access television funding a "hidden cost" that cable companies pass along to consumers.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has expressed concern to the FCC about the change, which could become final as early as December. The FCC is accepting public comment on the proposal until November 14.