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Weekly News From the President: Mark Your Calendar

Mark the FCC’s next Open Meeting on February 18th on your calendar. It may be the date we see some significant movement to get cable consumers more information about the channels available to them…including PEG channels.

There are two proceedings scheduled to be discussed at the meeting: One, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) about set-top box standards and consumer choice that’s being pressed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The Chairman has said he wants to open the market for set-top boxes to reduce the price of access to consumers (now in the BILLIONS of dollars each year) and break the cable industry control of the devices.

This is important for our members because access to the device includes access to program information about our channels. We need to insure that whatever systems are industry standard in the coming decade and beyond allow easy access for program guide information for local PEG channels.

The second proceeding is a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that’s being driven by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn that revolves around barriers to competition by independent, local and PEG producers on MVPD systems. Over the years she’s been at the FCC, Commissioner Clyburn says she’s heard consistent complaints from PEG channels across the U.S. about the behavior of cable operators and the barriers they put up to find community content. Following the AT&T DirecTV merger, she pressed for the NOI to build a public record about our industry and the fate of other independent and local program channels.

As I told Communications Daily on the matter, this is the number one complaint we hear from our members across the country. Whether the NOI will lead to further action is unclear. But we need to tell our story to the FCC to spur action.

ACM will be leading work on this with PEG operators across the U.S. in coming months, and so I want you to be prepared to tell your organization’s story later this spring.

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