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Michigan Fights to Ensure PEG Channels Are Available to All

The future is very uncertain for public, education and government (PEG) channels.  These local channels have traditionally been carried by cable companies as a public service to highlight local community and public voices.  Historically, PEG channels have been receivable on both analog and digital service, ensuring that PEG stations were accessible by any individual with a television, regardless of income level or cable package.  Now that the Digital TV transition is just around the corner, the question is what happens to these channels.  Comcast, a service provider, is not required to, nor going to, go "all digital" as of February 2009, but many believe they are using the pending transition as an excuse to reduce access to PEG channels. 

In November, Comcast attempted to move Michigan PEG channels off the "basic" tier of services and stick them in "digital delivery."  This move would place the channels out of the reach of a large number of cable subscribers. When Comcast proposed the change many local officials found themselves trapped.  While local officials wanted to protect PEG channels, the recently enacted uniform video services local franchise act tied there hands and greatly diminished their power to stop Comcast.  

Michigan legislators, in an attempt to protect PEG, drafted house bill 5693 to amend Public Act 480 to ensure that all subscribers could access PEG stations without having to purchase additional equipment.

Michigan's amendment uses language similar to that in California's state video franchising legislation, AB 2987.  One of the provisions in the California bill that aims to protect PEG stations states that PEG should be "receivable by all subscribers, whether they receive digital or analog service, without the need for any equipment other than equipment necessary to receive the lowest cost tier of service."

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