Government Video Podcast Ep. 4 - What H.R. 3557 Means for Local Franchising Authority and the Future of Local Government Access

Updated: May 15, 2024

Podcast episode cover art for 'Government Video Podcast, Episode 4: H.R. 3557'. Features a stylized graphic of a microphone intertwined with a government building icon, set against a vibrant cityscape at night. The title and episode number are prominently displayed along with a waveform overlay, conveying the theme of government and media interaction.

Welcome back GVP listeners. Michelle here. This week on the podcast we're featuring a conversation I had recently with Mike Wassenaar, President and CEO of the Alliance for Community Media, about H.R. 3557, a proposed bill that would affect local franchising authority for local government communication departments at the local and state level. 

Mike and I sat down a few weeks ago in Minneapolis when we were collaborating on another local media project. Dana and I had just started recording episodes and Mike was on my list of guests I knew I wanted to get on as soon as possible. We had just enough time to squeeze in this interview before we left and I'm so glad we did. 

Mike has a long history and depth of knowledge in all things community radio, community media, public, educational, and government access, as well as all the related policy that gets tossed around at the local and state level across the country. It felt like the perfect opportunity to get all the details about this proposed legislation, which has been causing some buzz for telecommunications folks in the public sector. 

H.R. 3557 is not directly aimed at hurting funding for Public, Education and Government (PEG) Access. Instead it was introduced to encourage rapid broadcast deployment across the country, but as Mike and I discuss in this episode, if the bill were to pass, it would have broad-sweeping effects on the funding that supports PEG operations across the country.

We talk about how federal law that passed in 1984 empowered local governments to have oversight over and ensure cable and broadband providers serve every home within their jurisdiction. This local oversight led to diverse media services tailored to each community’s unique needs. For example, some areas emphasize high school sports coverage, while others focus on broader civic information.

However, the current situation varies widely across the country. In some states, local authorities handle cable and broadband administration, often within technology or legal departments. In others, state-level commissions manage these responsibilities, which can create challenges in resolving local issues efficiently. As we’ve seen in states that have shifted to state-level franchising, the lack of local control can lead to prolonged problems, frustrating residents and local officials alike.

H.R. 3557 is a federal bill that could allow private service providers to unilaterally change contracts, potentially undermining local governments’ ability to negotiate and maintain essential services. It’s alarming to think about a contract where only one party can make changes without recourse, especially when it affects public land access and service delivery.

Check out the full episode as Mike explains how and why he wants public sector telecommunications folks to take action to oppose H.R. 3557. Thanks for listening!


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