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News Brief: MassAccess testifies in support of community access television

The bill seeks to allow community media stations access to electronic programming guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to local broadcast stations now and in the future.

MassAccess testifies in support of community access television

Boston — MassAccess, the nonprofit trade organization representing community media stations throughout Massachusetts, testified Tuesday in support of its legislation, “An Act to Support Community Access Television,” filed by Sen. John Keenan and Rep. Ruth Balser. The bill seeks to allow community media stations access to electronic programming guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to local broadcast stations now and in the future.

Passage of the bill would require cable companies to allow for broadcast of public, educational or government access channels in HD format and inclusion of programming in viewers’ electronic guides. The changes would allow for PEG channels to be on par with most other offerings in cable television as well as for greater access for viewers.

“These stations provide a public service to Massachusetts residents,” said William Nay, general manager of MashpeeTV and MassAccess president. “The refusal to offer local channels in HD and access to the programming guide discriminates against cable subscribers in Massachusetts and hinders the independent voices in our communities by denying equal access to local stations.”

Massachusetts residents make up just 2 percent of cable subscribers but account for 16 percent of community media stations in the country. There are over 200 local access cable TV centers in Massachusetts, the highest concentration of media centers in the U.S. Local access TV is the last hyper-local outlet for citizens, providing access to municipal meetings and transparency in local government. Channels provide local notices and information for citizens and residents. Additionally, individual centers provide educational and media literacy training while serving as community hubs and centers as well as providing training grounds for students who want to pursue careers in TV and film.

The bill was previously heard by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy in November 2015 and given a “study order” in April 2016. Language relevant to the bill was included in both the House and Senate versions of the economic development bill last year, but was omitted from the final version put forward.

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