Pursuant to Section 611 of the Communications Act, local franchising authorities may require cable operators to set aside channels for public, educational, or governmental ("PEG") use.
Public access channels are available for use by the general public. They are usually administered either by the cable operator or by a third party designated by the franchising authority.
Educational access channels are used by educational institutions for educational programming. Time on these channels is typically allocated among local schools, colleges and universities by either the franchising authority or the cable operator.
Governmental access channels are used for programming by local governments. In most jurisdictions, the local governments directly controls these channels.
PEG channels are not mandated by federal law, rather they are a right given to the franchising authority, which it may choose to exercise. The decision whether to require the cable operator to carry PEG channels is up to the local franchising authority. If the franchise authority does require PEG channels, that requirement will be set out in the franchise agreement between the franchising authority and the cable operator.
Franchising authorities may also require cable operators to set aside channels for educational or governmental use on institutional networks, i.e., channels that are generally available only to institutions such as schools, libraries, or government offices.
Franchising authorities may require cable operators to provide services, facilities, or equipment for the use of PEG channels.
In accordance with applicable franchise agreements, local franchising authorities or cable operators may adopt on their own, non-content-based rules governing the use of PEG channels. For example:
- Rules may be adopted for allocating time among competing applicants on a reasonable basis other than the content of their programming.
- Minimum production standards may be required.
- Users may be required to undergo training.
Federal law permitted a cable operator to prohibit the use of a PEG channel for programming that contains obscene material, sexually explicit conduct, indecency, nudity, or material soliciting or promoting unlawful conduct. However, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that this law was unconstitutional. Therefore, cable operators may not control the content of programming on public access channels with the exception that the cable operator may refuse to transmit a public access program, or a portion of the program, which the cable operator reasonably believes contains obscenity.
PEG channel capacity that is not in use for its designated purpose may, with the franchising authority's permission, be used by the cable operator to provide other cable services. Franchising authorities are directed by federal law to prescribe rules governing when this use is permitted.
For additional information
Any questions or comments about PEG channels on a particular system should be directed to the cable operator or the local franchising authority, and not to the Federal Communications Commission. The name and telephone number of your franchising authority should appear on your cable bill, or should be available through your cable operator. With very limited exceptions, the Federal Communications Commission is not responsible for enforcing the federal statute governing PEG channels.
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For more information pertaining to the Media Bureau, please call: (202) 418-7200.Updated: August 15, 2013