The term “Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) Access” was officially adopted by the federal government in its Cable Communications Act of 1984, which, by building upon what was already fairly well established in cabled communities around the country, allowed local cable franchising authorities to require cable operators to set-aside one or more of their cable television channels to non-commercial, nonprofit local programming, and also to house, equip and fund these operations. PEG Access was a public benefit that could be required of the cable operator in addition to, or in lieu of, the local franchise fee in exchange for its monopoly-like cabling of a community to sell its commercial products via the public rights of way. The key word here is could; that is, the local authorities could require the cable operator to provide PEG access, but the cable operator was not automatically required to do so!
Here, the State of Vermont is the “local franchising authority,” and has, since 1989, strongly supported PEG Access requirements from cable operators. But this has not been the case in other states or municipalities.
PEG Access Around the Country
Even though it usually begins at the grassroots level, PEG Access is something that ultimately needs the interest and motivation of its elected officials to make it happen and sustain it with funding from the cable operator. Therefore, PEG Access operations – when allowed by local officials to exist at all – have developed in so many ways as to defy simple classifications. Around the country, the three elements of PEG —public, educational and governmental— can co-exist or live separately in scores of permutations and combinations, depending on their governance, means of support, where they’re housed, what programs they have, the type of people who populate them, and so on.
There are, in fact, close to 2,000 PEG Access entities around the United States varying in size from tiny to gigantic that operate one, two or all three of these distinctly different P, E or G services. Some are nonprofits that are housed in private buildings, others are managed by schools or public libraries, and others are run by departments of City Halls or other types of municipalities. Rarely today does the cable operator run PEG Access.
Vermont has embraced the independent, non-profit organization model.
Read more about the Regulatory Environment in which PEG Access lives and how it grew over time, with the help of the federal government, into “PEG Access.”
PEG Access in Vermont
Here in Vermont, we have uniquely grown our PEG Access in a more organized fashion, and hence it is more easily categorized and described. All but one of our 25 community media operations (officially called Access Management Organizations, or AMOs) are independent nonprofit corporations, 24 are also IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, and all are most accurately called Community Media Access Centers (CMACs) to better describe the wide range of services and resources they provide as anchor institutions in their communities. See the directory.
In Burlington, and only in Burlington, there are three separate nonprofit CMACs: one for Public, one for Educational and one for Governmental. All other CMACs around the state manage all three simultaneously—P, E and G—using one, two or, less commonly, three cable TV channels in conjunction with their websites. If a community media access center manages fewer than three channels, you’ll see P, E and G types of programs mixed together.
In the glossary, you’ll be able to see how we define Public, Educational and Governmental Access under federal law, and understand why and how each is managed in three very different ways.