With the new appointment of Cheryl Halpern as the chair of PBS the republicans are going for broke. They want the absolute control of all public airwaves. Public Access television all across America is under attack by legislation being introduced in both the House of Reps. and the Senate (thank you, John Ensign of Nevada and John McCain of Arizona). The bills are designed to eliminate the source of funding for the public stations and to take away control from the local governments.
More After the break:
The Bill in the Senate is cloaked under republican double speak. Under the guise of reducing monopolies in the cable industry with language like "eliminate government managed competition of existing communication service" and "provide parity between functionally equivalent services." , the bill would take away the only funding that public access providers receive by eliminating the requirement for telecommunications companies to pay franchise fees.
Right now the telecommunication companies pay franchise fees to local municipalities for the right to use public lands as right of ways through which they can run their cables. These fees are a pittance per subscriber, equal to about $3.50 per subscriber per year. I'm sure we subscribers pay 10x this amount in some fee or tax, but that is beside the point right now.
The bills want to replace local cable franchises with national franchises, cutting channel capacity for public, educational and governmental access channels also known as PEGs.
We all love these stations, they are full of local politicians, psychics, entertainment rejects, religious prophets and late at night, low rent erotica. The fun aside (good, bad and ugly) they truly are a great source for local forums and over the years they have also become the only source for alternative news on air. Democracy Now is broadcast on them, news from across the Middle East, and a number of other alternative perspectives. They are pretty much uncensored and unfiltered and it is not paid for by any commercial interest.
I am including this link to action alert for New Yorkers. Please use as proto types for letters to your own elected officials.
Also read the transcripts from an interview on Democracy Now concerning the matter: