I appreciated your article on public access in Baltimore (“Not Cable Ready,” Mobtown beat, Feb 15).
The problem is in the federal law that created access channels. The Cable Act of 1984 restricts the ability of access channels to use money received for PEG [Public, Educational, and Government access cable TV channels] to only capital and equipment. At the time, the provision may have made sense, with cable operators arguing that if they gave money to the cities they wanted something built with it, not have it go into a black hole.
Our problem today is the law is killing us, not just in Baltimore, but nationwide. The city of Houston receives $1.2 million per year in PEG funding and can only use that for capital and equipment. So they have several million in the bank. If we could get the law changed, the guy in Houston says he could hire 20 people.
We are working on the federal Community Access Preservation Act, HR 1746, that among other things removes that distinction so PEG access can use the money they currently receive for both capital and operating.
It does us no good to be able to buy cameras and have no one to operate them.
Again, you have highlighted a real problem for access nationwide.
Executive director, American Community Television