Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Isn't It Romantic?

Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access television has spent a lifetime of being a bridesmaid but never a bride. The plain and somewhat awkward stepsister of public broadcasting, PEG has just never seemed to get her due. That looks like it is about to change, because a muscular new kid by the name of Verizon, has moved into the block and he has come a courtin’.

I’m speaking of course about the PEG provisions included in two Virginia bills, HB 2534 and a yet un-numbered companion piece introduced into the state senate by Senator Walter Stosch. My opinion of 2534 is that it sucks and there’s naught to be done to make it better. Stosch’s is a half-life version of the house bill, going from 40 year franchises to 20 year franchises, which still reeks, but there seems to be this unprecedented emphasis on PEG channels and support in it.

According to the Virginia Municipal League, the bill includes: a commitment to carry at least 5 public access, educational or governmental channels (PEG); the payment of a 5% franchise fee to the municipality; and a payment of 1% toward the operation of PEG channels and I-Net’s. The devil does end up in the details in that providing an exact number of channels does not account for expansion of the system at a later date and the demand for channel capacity that municipalities will experience (especially over a 20 year term). Also while there’s money for the operation of PEG channels and the I-Net, could this be actually shifting the burden onto the municipality for those operations or requiring them to absorb the cost of building the I-Net in the first place?

I just found it so odd that PEG ends up being at the top of the list of things to sweeten the pot so Verizon can get out of local franchising. My mother used to call that “petting the cow to get the calf.” She was describing how boys I dated would always go out of their way to be extra nice to her, even bringing her little gifts or offering to mow the lawn.

It has the potential for being a good thing. PEG has endured rough treatment at the hands of cable for way too long. Her new beau is making the cranky cable guy sit up and take notice. I’d caution PEG not to swoon too fast over this new fella because he’s got lots of other motives and not all of them are honorable. PEG, honey…play your cards right, be coy, make demands (guys like that)…and when push comes to shove, never settle for less than you deserve.

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