Operators Urge Nov. 7 Blackout of Public Access Channels

Nov 4, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Representatives of public access cable channel operators are urging access channel operators to pull the plug on their regular programming simultaneously nationwide Nov. 7, hoping to create a national snowstorm on viewers’ screens as a protest against pending federal legislation that operators fear could put a squeeze on their funding.

Access channel operators, led by the Alliance for Community Media, are concerned because some bills aimed at making it easier for telephone companies to get into the video business reduce the leverage that local franchising authorities currently have over cable TV systems.

One measure, sponsored by Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and John McCain, R-Ariz., would eliminate the requirement for local cable TV franchise agreements for incumbent cable TV operators and phone companies. The bill also would limit the fees local authorities can collect from cable operators to the actual costs incurred “in managing the public rights-of-way used by such provider.”

Said the alliance, on its Web page: “Each of these bills is a National Video Disenfranchisement Act — undoing years of progress in connecting the people of our communities to important local institutions and services.”

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association declined comment. Said Mike Balmoris, a spokesman for SBC Communciations: “SBC plans to bring consumers in its markets increased video choices. As it does so, SBC supports furthering local interests, including revenue fees, PEG [public, educational and government] access channels, and maintaining rights-of-way management. Federal legislation, including Sen. Ensign’s bill, accomplishes just that.”