Coalition targets local cable channel changes

PEG non-discrimination bill headed for Legislature
By Fran Gonzalez | Oct 05, 2018

Belfast — A Southern Maine senator, if he's re-elected, intends to present a bill during the next session to prevent cable providers from relocating local cable access channels in the numerical lineup.

Locally, as of Sept. 25, Belfast's community channels moved from channels 2, 5 and 7 to channels 1301, 1302 and 1303, according to BCTV2's Ned Lightner.

Stockton Springs Town Manager Courtney O'Donnell noted in a newsletter that the town's community channels also relocated and were renamed PEG, which stands for public, educational and government channels.

Sen. David Woodsome of York is working with the Community Television Association of Maine as well as consumer interest groups and municipalities on the legislation.

The legislation, titled "An act to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of public, educational and governmental access channels by the cable operator," is based on similar successful legislation in California and Illinois.

In a recent press release, Community Television Association of Maine stated, "The industry has repeatedly provided inferior technical support, most recently denying access to high definition channel space on their systems, and pushing the public, educational and government (PEG) channels into the highest tier of their systems...

"This practice makes it very difficult for viewers to find their municipal meetings and other community events that are typical of PEG programming."

Tom Vigue, former president of CTAM, said the channels have provided important community information for more than 30 years.

"It is important to note that no local commercial channels on these systems are being moved," Vigue said in the press release. "The reason ... is purely monetary since single-digit channel numbers command premium lease rates from shopping networks and the cable operator presently receives no income from the local PEG stations that currently occupy these channels."

The local channel move is a concerted effort by Spectrum, a local cable provider, to "convert to an all-digital network," Spectrum Director of Communications Andrew Russell said in an email.

The proposed bill also includes a requirement that Maine cable franchises provide service to a road that has a minimum of 15 homes per mile. This will have the effect of extending service to far more rural areas.

The bill prevents “automatic franchise renewals” beyond the initial term of the franchise renewal period for a municipality and also requires PEG channels be offered with basic cable service and placed in the same numerical sequence location as the local commercial network broadcast channels.

To get involved or find out more, visit http://ctamaine.org/News.

 

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