WASHINGTON - This week, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) helped introduce the Protecting Community Television Act, which would ensure that community television operations continue to receive the resources they need to educate and inform viewers in the cities and towns where they operate.

Currently, local governments are permitted to require—as part of cable franchise agreements—that cable companies meet demonstrated community needs by providing in-kind contributions that benefit schools, public safety buildings, as well as public, educational, and government (PEG) channels, also known as community television stations. However, last year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to permit cable companies to assign a value to these contributions and then subtract that amount from the franchise fees the cable operator pays the local community. As a result, local governments will have to decide between supporting PEG stations in cable franchise agreements and supporting other important services for critical community institutions like schools and libraries. The Protecting Community Television Act would clarify that the franchise fees that cable companies provide local governments only include monetary assessments, not in-kind contributions.

“We must protect community television stations that give voice to important local issues, leaders and stories that may not otherwise be heard,” Klobuchar said. “Thomas Jefferson wrote that the first objective of our democracy should be to leave open all avenues to the truth and that the most effective way of doing this is through freedom of the press. I am proud to support the Protecting Community Television Act as we continue working to ensure that local television stations receive the resources they need to inform and educate our communities.”

“It is so important for local voices to be heard, and for the federal government to support the community television stations who lift up these voices in Minnesota and across the country,”
Smith said. “We’re seeing more and more media consolidation, and it’s vital that we stand up for local media. Communities deserve lawmakers who will look out for them, and that’s what we’re doing through this legislation.”

“The League of Minnesota Cities thanks Senators Smith and Klobuchar for their ongoing support for local authority and protecting local media. The Cable Act was passed by Congress to ensure that cable providers meet community needs and fairly compensate cities for the use of the public right of way to deliver their service. The Protecting Community Television Act upholds that commitment and protects community programming from FCC overreach by clarifying that community benefits negotiated between the city and cable companies cannot be deducted from the franchise fees paid to the city,” said Dave Unmacht, Executive Director at the League of Minnesota Cities.

You can access text of the legislation here. The bill is supported by the League of Minnesota Cities, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, Alliance for Community Media, MassAccess, TeleCommUnity, and Texas Municipal League.

There are more than 1,500 public, educational, and governmental studios/operations and an estimated 3,000 PEG channels in America. Religious programming represents 30 percent of local access programming. Tens of thousands of hours of programming is produced by veterans, seniors, the disabled and ethnic, minority and second language groups.

The Protecting Community Television Act—led by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)—is also supported by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Marie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).