Maine PEG Channels Avoid ‘Digital Siberia’ with Court Ruling

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

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On Aug. 3, in a major victory for Maine PEG stations, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal by cable companies to its challenge of a law designed to support PEG channels. The complaint was filed by the Internet and Television Association (NCTA), which unsuccessfully argued the Maine law was pre-empted by provisions of the Communications Act of 1934, also known as the Federal Cable Act.

The law requires PEG channels to be carried on the basic cable tier, prohibits PEG channels from being separated numerically from other local broadcast channels, and prohibits cable operators from moving them without consent. By keeping PEG channels on the basic cable tier next to other local broadcasters, it prevents them being relegated to higher channel numbers, which Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General for the District of Maine, called “digital Siberia.”

But that’s not all. The law also provides a provision for HD carriage, stating that not only are PEG channels to be retransmitted in the same format as received from the PEG operator, but they are to be “afforded the same signal quality provided to all subscribers on the cable system in comparison to local broadcast channels.” Plus, PEG channels get equal billing to local broadcast channels on the electronic program guide.

"We are pleased that today, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected every one of the cable television industry’s legal arguments and upheld all aspects of the Maine law,” Frey said in a statement. “Community-run television stations are a priceless public resource, and the court’s ruling will go far in ensuring their continuing vitality by protecting against marginalization by cable television operators.”

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