Lawmakers Seek FCC Action on AT&T Treatment of Public Channels
At a September 17 hearing, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce protections for public, educational, and government (PEG) channels. A major regulatory shift at the FCC and state levels has failed to safeguard PEG in multiple ways, ignoring localism and diversity goals mandated by Congress.
Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Jose Serrano (NY-D) and Acting Ranking Member, Congressman Mark Kirk (IL-R) made it clear that localism is a priority and there is no excuse for PEG being treated in a manner that in any way impairs people's ability to use, find and see these local channels.
Chairman Serrano singled out AT&T in his opening remarks, "AT&T's recent action relating to PEG channels goes to the heart of many of the concerns that will be raised today. Let the record show that I consider their decision not to send a witness to be indicative of the company's apparent disregard of the importance of PEG to local communities."
Acting Ranking Member, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) agreed, "I am completely with you on nailing AT&T for its handling of PEG channels...if there was any thought by AT&T that the Republican member here at the hearing would help them out, let me disabuse them now...after talking with some of my communities, my view of AT&T was 'and the horse you rode in on.' Because I think their proposal falls way short of the mark."
Testifying for the Alliance for Community Media, Barbara Popovic, CAN TV Executive Director cited the finding of Congressional Research Service's September 5th report on PEG access that AT&T "has chosen not to make PEG programming available to subscribers in the same fashion that it makes commercial programming available. Instead, it treats PEG content the same way it treats Internet traffic." Adds Ms. Popovic, "Bottom line, AT&T, the company that promotes 'choice' in cable franchising, is giving viewers no choice when it comes to PEG."
FCC Media Bureau Chief Monica Desai stated "We believe that placing PEG channels on any tier other than the basic service tier may be a violation of the statute." Subcommittee members pointed out the importance of the FCC using its authority to enforce the law.
The hearing concluded with chairman Serrano and Rep. Kirk in full agreement that "the subcommittee will put the subject on the table with the FCC" to request action in resolving these issues.
Watch video of September 17 hearing.
Download written and oral testimony of Barbara Popovic.
Read hearing coverage here.