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Weekly News From the President: FCC Asks about Barriers to Reach Viewers

After complaints from ACM and community television operations around the country, the FCC has issued a Notice of Inquiry that asks whether the cable industry puts up barriers for our channels.

 is part of an effort to document other potential abuses of the industry that hurt independent and diverse programming. The deadline for comments will be March 30 and Reply Comments will be due April 19.

The inquiry was prompted by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who is concerned about what she has heard from PEG programmers and others about industry behavior.

It’s important to recognize this is not a rule-making proceeding, but it’s an opportunity to document issues that affect our success. It specifically asks a series of questions about access to program guides and channel navigation, which is a top concern of our members.

ACM will be preparing comments for the inquiry and we’ll be partnering with other groups that care about supporting our channels. We want you and your organization to participate in the proceeding.
We’ll have a briefing on how you can be involved next Thursday, March 10th at 4pm ET on our Public Policy call. If you want to be on the briefing call and don’t have the logistics, or cannot make the call and want to be involved with this important proceeding, please let me know by email at


Almost lost in the details of the release of the NOI and the Set Top Box Proposed Rule Making earlier this month at the FCC was an Order defining responsibility for closed captioning on video channels (

We’ve been inquiring about the order with the FCC to clarify several points and here’s what we’ve found out:

The FCC wants all entities (even those exempt from captioning requirements by statute) to state yearly whether they are exempt.

They are setting up a simple web form which should be active by this Fall.

All PEG channels will have to fill out the certification form.   This will provide a point-of-contact for channels in case of consumer complaints, and should simplify how the FCC handles complaints from viewers.

What’s not clear right now is the extent the order affects public access producers. The order contemplates that all video producers have a responsibility to caption, but it clearly never considered the needs of public access producers across the country.

ACM wants to ensure this certification process doesn’t put a burden on any of our PEG channels or hinder public access producers from using their channels. We’ll keep you updated on what we find out in the next few weeks, and will help you if you have questions about your rights and responsibilities.


A big Thank You to the folks at SPNN in St Paul and BRIC Arts Media in Brooklyn who were a part of our Documentary program webinar last week, and to all the folks who joined us!

It was really inspiring to see these two approaches to building cohorts of documentary storytellers at access studios. If you want to look at their recent work, go to You Tube and