December 30, 2014

CMA gears up for Illinois Cable Law sunset

The Cable and Video Competition Act of 2007 (Illinois’ cable law) expires in 2015 and CMA members are turning their attention to Springfield. At a recent meeting with representatives of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, CMA stressed the importance of extending public benefits as part of renewal terms for companies that operate under state law.

CMA had representatives at the meeting from NAACP West, Toys for Tots, Washington Park Advisory Council, Free Spirit Media, as well as independent filmmakers and community leaders. Members itemized concerns with state cable law, including the potential for it to weaken public benefits that were hard won at the local level. The importance of customer service protections for moderate and low income people was particularly noted.

CMA reps also pointed to the large number of people that benefit from use of CAN TV, Chicago’s local public access facility, and emphasized the importance of state law protecting the funding of CAN TV's five channels. CMA reps made clear their objection to any industry attempt to prevent equality for those channels as technology continues to evolve.

Finally, CMA reps stressed the importance of a longer term for the state cable franchise renewal than the short two-years granted previously by the legislature. AT&T and Comcast bankroll an army of lobbyists to push their agenda in Springfield. But members of the legislature and the Attorney General are there to look out for the public’s interests. CMA representatives urged the strengthening of the law, and creation of greater stability with a longer term.

CMA members sought support for the following conditions as part of 2015 state cable franchise renewal:

  • No change in the funding for Chicago of an unrestricted 1% PEG fee.
  • Technical parity for public access channels that meets the equivalency standards of the law, such as being simulcast on HD and SD like local broadcast channels. 
  • Strong monitoring and enforcement of customer service and public access channel requirements.
  • A longer term to ensure greater stability.


December 12, 2014

Robbie Smith Recognized for Ongoing Support of CAN TV and Media Access!

Congratulations to Robbie Smith, who has spent countless hours helping organize and inform CMA members.  Robbie was recognized at the December 10, 2014 annual CAN TV board of director’s meeting for over 20 years of involvement with CAN TV.  The board noted Robbie’s many “hats” as a former board member, prolific producer, consultant, organizer and advocate.  

In informing CMA members about the recognition, Robbie said the CAN TV board acknowledged “our collective efforts to help protect the future of CAN TV.  I accepted the honor not just for myself, but on behalf of all of us who did something to make a difference.”


November 23, 2014

City Fixes Local Ordinance for Support of Public Channels

On November 19, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that ensures CAN TV will not be deprived of funding from companies that get state franchises.  The current ordinance was flawed.  While it ensured CAN TV would get the 1% public access fee from AT&T, it routed funds from all future state franchise companies to the City.  With Comcast’s announcement that it planned to abandon its negotiations with the City and opt into a state franchise, it became imperative that this disparity be corrected.  

The corrected ordinance now states that CAN TV will get direct payment of 2/3rds of the 1% fee for public access allocated under state law.  That applies across the board for all companies, and brings state cable payments into line with the RCN local franchise.  CMA members applaud the City Council for taking this important step to ensure the future stability of CAN TV.


October 21, 2014

Will City cable price hike harm the public’s channels?

On October 15, 2014 Mayor Emanuel announced his 2015 budget for the City of Chicago.  The Chicago Tribune itemized the various increases, including “eliminating an exemption in the cable TV amusement tax, a step that could boost a tax typically passed on to consumers by $12 million.” 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, up until last year cable companies were credited the 5% franchise fee they pay as part of cable franchises against the City’s 9% amusement tax.  But over the past two years, the City has taken steps to end that practice, with cable fees and taxes paid to the city rising to over 14%.

Since cable first came to Chicago in the early 80’s, Chicago residents have been working to help create, and protect, the most valuable asset to come from cable franchises, CAN TV.   Gordon Quinn recalls that CAN TV’s creation was important because it wasn’t just about creating channels, it was about making sure the funding existed to provide training, equipment and facilities for the public.

Cable companies around the country have been cutting back on their commitment to public channels and services.  This move by the City can result in cable companies putting the squeeze on the less than 1% of funding that goes to CAN TV.  

The hearing on this issue is this Friday, October 24 at 9am. The Committee for Media Access encourages Aldermen to raise this issue and asks them to oppose this change unless the City makes sure CAN TV’s funding is secure now and in the future.