This week, Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith helped introduce the Protecting Community Television Act, which would ensure that community television operations continue to receive the resources they need to educate and inform viewers in the cities and towns where they operate.
According to a news release Thursday, Jan. 23, local governments are permitted to require—as part of cable franchise agreements—that cable companies meet demonstrated community needs by providing in-kind contributions that benefit schools, public safety buildings, as well as public, educational, and government channels, also known as community television stations.
However, last year the Federal Communications Commission voted to permit cable companies to assign a value to these contributions and then subtract that amount from the franchise fees the cable operator pays the local community. As a result, local governments will have to decide between supporting government channels stations in cable franchise agreements and supporting other important services for critical community institutions like schools and libraries. The Protecting Community Television Act is intended to clarify that the franchise fees that cable companies provide local governments only include monetary assessments, not in-kind contributions.
“We must protect community television stations that give voice to important local issues, leaders and stories that may not otherwise be heard,” Klobuchar stated in the release. “Thomas Jefferson wrote that the first objective of our democracy should be to leave open all avenues to the truth and that the most effective way of doing this is through freedom of the press. I am proud to support the Protecting Community Television Act as we continue working to ensure that local television stations receive the resources they need to inform and educate our communities.”
“It is so important for local voices to be heard, and for the federal government to support the community television stations who lift up these voices in Minnesota and across the country,” Smith stated in the release. “We’re seeing more and more media consolidation, and it’s vital that we stand up for local media. Communities deserve lawmakers who will look out for them, and that’s what we’re doing through this legislation.”