Thursday, February 10, 2011

I can find little reason to celebrate what's happened in NJ.

I can find little reason to celebrate
what's happened in NJ.


As far as I can tell,
New Jersey's Laws for PEG are pretty bad.

NJ law, as far as I can see, provides no additional benefits
over the  (mostly) really terrible 1984 Cable Act.

The way I understand what's happened:
(please correct me if I'm wrong)

Cable operators tried to get a law passed
which would create ANOTHER way to pull-the-plug on PEG,
(if there was "effective competition",  i.e., another operator in the area which did not provide PEG)
in addition to the way which already exists.

This was defeated.
And there was much rejoicing: "yay" (said unenthusiastically) 

This reminds me of the MadTV segment "Lowered Expectations"

Here's what I've been able to learn about
The shape of Public Access in NJ:
(be sure to check out the Google Document below with a complete summary of my research)

1: According to Title 14, Chapter 18,  Subchapter 15 § 14:18-15.4 of the NJAC,
the only requirement for 2 PEG channels in NJ is when a cable operator negotiates
a "system-wide" franchise. When they deal with individual municipalities, NO PEG.

You can find the code here, if you wade around enought:

2. Public Access (the only REAL kind of access) is not defined apart from Education and Government.
In NJ they mostly seem to call it "Municipal Access" (e.g., on websites)

So all the Municipality / LFA has to do is provide a crew to shoot the school sports events, produce
cute feel-good segments about the fire department, and maybe some governmental meetings,
and they've met the requirement.

Once again, please hear me. I know many of you are managers of EG stations, and I know many of you do important, public service work.

BUT this is NOT Public Access if someone, anyone, CONTROLS CONTENT. It's not really access at all.

George Stoney at the very beginning mentioned that he regretted that the term PEG was invented, because he thought the EG would be used to squeeze out and maybe shut down the P, and this is exactly what has happened! (in NJ and elsewhere)


3. According Title 14 § 14:18-15.4  (a)(3): The municipality can pull the plug on PEG at any time.
   There is no mandatory PEG in NJ:

A municipality served by a system-wide franchise may waive the requirement that the cable television company operating under a system-wide franchise provide either one or both of the public, educational and governmental access channels.

This is essentially adopts the LOUSY language from the 1984 cable act, "the LFA may require PEG". This is very devious language, because it looks like positive law (law which creates rights), but it's really law which tries to convince you that you don't have any rigths!

4.  The law ALLOWS public access to exist in NJ, but
     Is there any Public Access in NJ in fact?

A: channel capacity?
B: studio facilities?

I've been researching this question for 5 days now.
I've been asking on this list.

I've found a few "municipal access" stations.
Mostly, as far as I have been able to tell, mostly
these are not public access.

Here is a Google Doc of my research.

(Big thanks to Bunnie Reidel for providing much of this data!)

This is a Google Doc which anyone can edit.
Feel free to edit and improve this page.

I have found historical mention of "public access" in NJ.
(e.g., here:

However, I have been unable to find any
public access studio facilities
anywhere in the state.

Do any exist?
I would love to learn of some.

Also, is there public access channel capacity?
Is there anyone on these lists who successfully submits tapes
anywhere in the state of NJ and have them play on a Public Access channel?

These "effective competition" clauses are commonly found
in Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA, GATT, etc) and are called
"pull down" agreements, i.e., the create a "Race to the Bottom"
as operators compete to provide the worst service possible,
so the other operators can try to match that.

This was defeated.

Considering (IMO) the very bad state of Public Access in NJ,
this is a very tiny victory indeed.

Oh yes, but I can hear it now...

"But we have to preserve what we have left!!!"

... and we have been all chanting this since the 1984 Cable Act
and each year we watch more facilities close.


We have to CHANGE THE FRAME of this Debate!
We need a creative vision of MANDATORY public access.
Let's first start at the state level, then move it to national.

As I have stated previously,
the very clever (in a sinister way) 1984 Cable Act
created the FALSE notion that that Local Franchising Authority,
has the right to both,

a) grant privilege to Time Warner, Comcast,, to use our rights of way, and
b) permit Time Warner to exclude the people's voice from their production studios and spectrum.

This is a straw man, a false premise.
There exists no such authority!

With all due respect to my colleagues who
work for or direct EG or "Muni Access" facilities:

This present media system
of excluding We the People
from the communications commons
is a perversion of our democracy.

We need a new vision
Mandatory Public Access For ALL
Public Access in the Broadcast Spectrum!
Public Access in the Digital Commons
and Media Democracy for all
for the Next Decade!


On Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 1:55 PM, Alan Bushong <> wrote:

What terrific work by JAG members! Fast, focused, state-wide pressure from
Mayors and other people with influence. This is a great model for all of us.
We CAN organize our communities to advocate for this invaluable community
resource. While it's disturbing that a state legislator would say the
channels are not watched, it's encouraging that the legislature would fix
the problem.

Way to go, Jersey Access Group! Alan

On 2/10/11 8:46 AM, "Chuck Sherwood" <> wrote:

> -to-bill.html
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William Huston  
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