FCC Cable Vote Will Harm Local Media

Press Release from the Alliance of Community Media:

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to limit the benefits that communities get in return for the corporate use of public property and rights-of-way in its Third Report and Order on cable franchising. The Alliance for Community Media – which represents community access television stations across the United States said the move that will cost cities and towns millions of dollars in hidden fees paid to cable companies.

Under laws set up by Congress, communities are allowed to charge rent or “franchise fees” for the use of public property and rights-of-way. Congress capped that rent at 5 percent of gross revenues on cable bills.

The FCC Order will now expand the definition of franchise fees – to include non-monetary support for local communities and Public, Educational and Government Access television – even though Congress clearly intended those fees be only monetary payments.

The proposed rules would allow cable companies to assign market values to these benefits and then charge the amount back to local communities in most cases. Benefits include items like free cable subscriptions to schools, discounts for the elderly, and fiber connectivity to local government buildings like police departments, fire stations and libraries.

Alliance for Community Media President & CEO Mike Wassenaar said the vote was deeply disappointing because it ignores forty years of business practices in the United States, and tries to rewrite the law, which only Congress is authorized to do. He says the Order is intended to squeeze town and city budgets in order to increase cable company profits, and may result in less local content on local cable channels, which is not the intent of the law either.

“At a time when everyone agrees we need MORE local media this is not the moment to take money out of the pockets of the groups who actually produce local content in order to give it away to the cable industry. This Order will mean less local content and more corporate profit, which is not the intent of the law. Our thanks to FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks for their dissents on the Order.”

For Information Contact:
Mike Wassenaar, President & CEO
mwassenaar@allcommunitymedia.org (952) 928-4643


The Alliance for Community Media is a national organization representing Public, Educational and Government Access TV channels across the United States. More information is available at www.allcommunitymedia.org.