Monday, December 04, 2006

Public Access TV Threatened by HB 6456

The ICDP has been an avid user of and supporter of the services provided by our local public access TV folks, the Mid-Michigan Area Cable Consortium (MAC3-TV) that operates our public, educational and governmental channels in Gratiot, Clare and Isabella Counties. But a new telecommunications law now being discussed by the lame-duck legislature could eliminate all funding for public access television as early as Tuesday. We need you to call our legislators ASAP. Here’s the rest of the story.

How could this happen? The big telecoms and their Republican friends are claiming that more TV choices will be available if local franchising is eliminated for cable TV and that consumers will be better served with more choices. They want to take regulatory authority away from local governments with HB 6456 (aka The Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act) and hand it over to the state government. Public access, educational and local government (PEG) channels are part of the current deal to allow cable TV to operate locally. Currently, no taxpayer money pays for PEG TV. The money comes from a portion of the franchise fees paid to local governments. In our area 12 communities in our 3 counties have a deal with Charter Communications.

By pooling their money, the local public officials have actually created a rather vibrant public access channel and educational and governmental programming that includes TV produced by many community groups, college students, schools and organizations including local churches, libraries, animal shelters and, of course, the ICDP. We’ve been working with the MAC3-TV folks to bring Amy Goodman’s famous Democracy Now program to Channel 3. As soon as a new satellite receiver is in place the program will be on the air, probably before Christmas.

But all that good stuff could come to a screeching halt if HB 6456 moves through the legislature as written. The Michigan Municipal League has recommended a series of changes that would allow additional competition without relinquishing local control and avoids creating a new state agency for franchising and saves public access. Hundreds of local governments including the City of Mt. Pleasant have passed resolutions opposed to HB 6456. More info is available here.

Your phone calls or e-mails tonight or tomorrow morning to our local legislators can make a difference. Let them know that you want to keep public access TV and protect our local governments from further loss of revenues. State Senator’s contact info is available here under Find Your Senator. House of Representatives members information is available here under Find a Representative. Do it now and leave a message!! Or do it in the morning.

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