Cable television leaders took to the State Capitol on Thursday to talk about local programming and how it’s funded.
“We want to build an advocacy and an understanding of the work that we do,” said Mark Martinez, president of The Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators (MACTA).
MACTA is a statewide professional organization of community cable stations, communications professionals and franchise authorities.
In cities across Minnesota, including Coon Rapids, you can tune into local cable channels, like CTN, to find stories specific to your community. Contrary to what some might assume, local cable programming does not rely on city tax dollars.
“I think the biggest education that we need is where our funding comes from,” said Jodie Miller, MACTA’s legislative co-chair, “we’re putting videos out on cable and streaming and many other platforms to inform and entertain our communities on local programming that you can’t find anywhere else, but they don’t know how it’s funded.”
Community cable television is primary funded by cable providers. Companies like Comcast must run cable through city right-of-way land to reach its customers. When Comcast and other cable providers do that, a federal rule says they may have to set aside some money for public, educational or governmental use (PEG). PEG funding was made possible through the federal Communications Act in 1984.
This PEG funding from companies, plus a franchise fee they charge to cable subscribers, makes local cable programming possible. Some community cable programmers say a recent ruling by the FCC may make it easier for cable providers to cut back on PEG funding for community cable access stations.
“Cities don’t have unlimited resources,” said Miller, “they have enough challenges to keep their police and fire and public safety and public works infrastructure funded. So people kind of take it for granted that the local community cable station will be there to cover all of these events.”
Cable leaders and members of MACTA hope their day at the capitol helps grow state lawmaker support for local programming and protect the funding needed for it to survive.