President's Message | March 17, 2020

acm & coVID-19

I’ve been documenting responses of ACM members to the Covid-19 emergency as the situation develops day by day and in communities across the country. Here are some things that we’re seeing:

Organizations are either enforcing remote work, closures of facilities or appointment only reservations.  

Organizations are trying to find ways to help their communities stay connected – whether that means conducting public meetings with remote questions or helping religious organizations conduct teleservices to help the congregations and the elderly who cannot meet in large groups.  

In one case, an ACM member is trying to partner with a local music charity to provide performances to the community AND enable donations to help artists who will not have the ability to make a living because of music venue closures.  

What are you doing to ensure that your community is connected – that you are helping people in a time of need – and are acting safely in pandemic conditions?   

My request to you is document what you are doing.  

PEG community media can help people and communities in crisis.  We need to tell that story – but it’s difficult to do so if you don’t actually write things down, or document what’s happening day to day in your town or city.  So be sure to take note of your successes and impact during the outbreak and share it with ACM and your colleagues across the country. 


There was good news out of Maine this past week: The judge in NCTA v Frey – the cable industry’s challenge against Maine’s consumer protection law mandating equal treatment of PEG channels and channel placement adjacent to broadcast tiers – rejected all of cable’s arguments. 

A big congratulations and thank you goes to everyone in Maine who has been active in the case – lots of Community Television Association of Maine members are quoted at length in the judge’s ruling, which puts forward that states can protect consumers and that cable’s preemption and First Amendment arguments don’t hold water.

I believe the case will be challenged in Federal court – but we’ll see how the cable industry reacts.   

Here’s analysis for ACM Board Member Jim Horwood:

The decision in the Maine case rules against NCTA’s claims that the State law was preempted by federal law and denies a facial challenge to a requirement that renewed franchise agreements must contain a minimum density requirement of 15 residents per linear strand or aerial cable, finding that any particular challenge can be dealt with in individual renewal (“because the line extension requirement is clearly reasonable in some applications, its constitutionality can only be challenged on an as-applied basis, rather than a facial one”). 

As to the PEG provisions of the State law, the Court upheld (1) the requirement that PEG channels be carried on the basic tier and the prohibition on cable operators from separating PEG channels numerically from other local broadcast channels or changing numbers assigned to PEG channels without the consent of the originator, (2) the requirement that cable operators carry PEG channels in both HD format and SD format in the same manner as local broadcast channels, and (3) the requirement that cable operators assist PEG channel originators with using the electronic programming guide. In reaching her decision on these issues, Judge Nancy Torreson relied extensively on the declarations of CTAM members, in particular Tony Vigue, that the State submitted in its opposition to NCTA.


In other legal news, the 6th Circuit Court heard arguments about staying the FCC’s Third Report and Order on Cable Franchising.  No word on when the stay decision will be released, but ACM Central States Members showed up to support the effort in Cincinnati last week.  


And in Congressional news, Senator Diane Feinstein added her name to the list of co-sponsors of the Protecting Community Television Act in the Senate.  A big thanks goes out to our California members who’ve been asking her office to sign on!   
ACM members around the country are continuing to push for co-sponsorship of the act, even as we are working around the clock to help our communities respond to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Here’s Tony Riddle in Brooklyn NY with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who came to BRIC to hold a community telecast on coronavirus.  Our channels are important to our communities and now is the time to underline that message. If you need help reaching out to your Congress members, let me know at


If you can, please join Stacy Higa from Hilo HI, Debby Rogers from Falmouth MA and me on Wednesday as we talk about underwriting for stations and best practices.  You can still sign up and come with questions!

Be well and stay safe,

Mike Wassenaar
President & CEO
The Alliance for Community Media