The Northeast in Winter
ACM Northeast brings together people from six state affiliates/chapters of the national organization. It seems the news we trade most often has to do with regulation of the cable industry that hosts our channels, policy that varies from state to state but is not consistent across the region. Here’s a little roundup of what we heard this past January:
The Community Television Association of Maine has a fairly new video featured on their website homepage, a collaboration by several member organizations. Like other parts of the country served by Spectrum (formerly Charter Communications or Time-Warner), the community access channels have been “slammed” from their low-number assignment to something four-digit and away from where viewers can normally come across them. The 18-minute piece can also be found on Vimeo.
Community media has a strong presence in the Bay State, but their supporters take nothing for granted. MassAccess continues to pursue legislation to protect PEG financial support from “enterprise fund” legislation. In a positive direction, friendly state legislators are pushing to bring PEG programs into high-definition and onto the Electronic Program Guide (EPG). The chapter is working on how to fund their lobbyist for this work.
Vermont Access Network enjoyed success in recent years by way of their regulatory agency, when the Comcast license that covers most of the state included a path to an HD channel, inclusion of programming on the EPG, continued capital funding for the AMOs in Comcast areas, and more. Comcast has taken this decision to court. VAN’s attention is focused on preparing their case once more and on finding funds for legal representation.
ACM New York held their annual meeting late in January. The chapter’s ongoing concern is upstate (pretty much anywhere outside the big city), community media where underfunded or nonexistent. Their perennial hope lies in draft legislation to require local districts to set aside part of the cable franchise fees to preserve or start up community access.
Members of Connecticut ACM whose channels are connected to the provider formerly known as U-Verse recently received correspondence from Frontier Communications, the company that bought the state’s U-Verse service from AT&T in 2014. The “Channel 99” application is being retired this month, and all PEG channels will be assigned numbers in the 6001+ range. In answer to questions, the Frontier official wrote that viewers will be able to use their DVRs for PEG programming. Also, PEG channels will be identified on the EPG–none of which was possible on Channel 99. Actual listing of programs is not likely, but this impending change is the most positive news that the state chapter has heard in years.
New Hampshire Coalition for Community Media abides and seems to have no big policy challenges on the horizon.
Compare & contrast
- One exile to the four-digit end of the channel line-up (Maine/Charter) is another’s rescue from the black pit of the Channel 99 menu (Connecticut/Frontier).
- Which is better: state or local? Massachusetts community media has flourished with locally-determined franchises; the threat ahead is at state-level. The PEG-friendly license in Vermont was decided by its state agency. Upstate New York PEGs suffer from local economic pressures. Connecticut community access has had the same problem at state level.