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On Dec. 9, the Protecting Community Television Act was reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Edward J. Markety (D-MA) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), as well as Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in the House. It was previously introduced in January 2020. The bill is an effort to separate franchise fees from in-kind contributions that can be required by local franchising authorities (LFA) to support a variety of local needs, such as schools or public safety buildings.
In August 2019, the FCC determined in-kind contributions could be subtracted from franchise fees, which are subject to a 5% cap of the cable operator’s gross revenues per the Communications Act. As explained by the National Association of Counties, “Subjecting in-kind contributions to the franchise fee cap could contribute to a reduction of 30 to 40 percent in franchise fees, resulting in a significant drop in resources for PEG channels.” The bill rewrites Sec. 622 [47 U.S.C. 542], the portion of the law regarding franchise fees, to clarify that franchise fees include only monetary assessments, not in-kind contributions.
A number of senators and representatives have co-sponsored the legislation, which has been endorsed by the Alliance for Community Media, MassAccess, National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities.
“Throughout the ongoing pandemic, viewers in Massachusetts and across the country have relied on community media to stay safe, healthy, and informed,” said Markey. “I’m proud to re-introduce the Protecting Community Television Act because, in this era of increased media consolidation and globalization, it is critical that we preserve the PEG operations that lift up local voices and air the programming that is most relevant to the lives of our family members and neighbors.”