Catching school board meetings or locally produced talk shows on cable access systems will be more difficult for channel surfers due to changes in laws in several states. Public, educational and government stations, also know as PEGs, are fixtures on basic cable packages, made available as a public service requirement of the Communications Act of 1934. PEG stations televise town hall meetings, school plays and run quirky, locally produced talk shows with “Wayne’s World”-style theatrics. Yet California and Illinois are among 20 states that enacted laws allowing cable companies to end their support for PEG studio facilities, equipment and staff, and giving control of programming to state agencies rather than local communities. When California’s Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act took effect Jan.
Among the 200 people who signed up to speak at an FCC hearing on media consolidation in Seattle last week were many who are convinced the Republican-controlled panel has already decided to loosen existing media ownership rules. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who was greeted with catcalls and boos at the meeting, wants a vote on changing ownership rules next month, reports the Seattle Times. The FCC loosened some of those rules in 2003, enabling a company to own more than one type of media outlet in a local market. But the move was struck down by a federal appeals court. Proponents say restrictions on media ownership aren’t an issue anymore because the Internet has given people access to more diverse media.
Tensions and voices are rising over a push by Internet carriers such as AT&T to charge content providers — such as Google — for access to their networks. John Kneuer, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s assistant secretary for communications and information, got in a shouting match with delegates at a San Francisco technology conference after giving a speech in which he said the government ought not step in to protect internet access and innovation. He said that the market had created a wealth of broadband providers to choose from, which provoked shouts of “There is no marketplace!” from attendees. Their point, according to The Register, is that the few large corporations controlling the “lion’s share” of broadband Internet access do not constitute a competitive market.