IN: Comcast Closes Public Access TV Studios Across Northern Indiana

Posted on November 21, 2007 - 8:11am.

from: Our Channels Indiana

Comcast Closes Public Access TV Studios Across Northern Indiana
Written by Andrea Price, on Sunday, 18 November 2007

A year and a half after the enactment of the Indiana Telecommunications Reform Act of 2006, Comcast notified producers in South Bend, Hammond, Merrillville, Mishawaka, Plymouth, Goshen, and Portage -- and Edwardsburg, Michigan - that it would be closing production studios and playback facilities for public access TV.

According the language in the Indiana video franchising law, a video services provider with existing requirements for public, education, and government (PEG) "channel capacity, facilities, or financial support under a local franchise issued before July 1, 2006," shall provide at least the number of PEG channels "under the terms of the local franchise." The law goes on to explain how the financial support should be paid, and that it is not part of the franchise fee. If facilities were required in the local franchise agreement, wouldn't that mean they should continue to be provided? Comcast thinks not.

"While the state statute ensures that channel capacity will be provided for access channels in existence on July 1, 2006; there is no requirement to continue to provide personnel, studios or equipment," wrote Amy Hansen of Comcast in a letter dated August 28, 2007. "Comcast will begin working with local municipalities and non-profit groups to transition the studios and equipment to new locations." Studios in Hammond, Portage, and Mishawaka closed on September 28; producers can drop off tapes at Comcast until December 15 or "until the transition has been completed."

According to Jerry Puckett, a public access TV producer in Hammond, the public access channel is already no longer airing programs. Like most of the public access channels in northern Indiana, Hammond's channel was a shared PEG channel and included coverage of council meetings and weekly programs with the mayor.

The City of South Bend is attempting to find a solution. "Our city had not taken advantage of this access channel," said Council member Dr. David Varner who has started to investigate what other cities are doing and sees the closing as an opportunity: The taped Common Council meetings were the only local government meetings aired on the city's lone public access television channel. "Our first responsibility is ... to bring government to the people," said Dr. Varner, also a proponent of giving community voices access to the television. According to Tom Brown, a long-time public access television producer, Comcast will terminate the channel if a community has not worked out a plan for their own studio by December 15.

The Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission (IURC) is responsible for enforcement of state video franchisesand the application that companies sign for a state video franchise certificate through the IURC says the company agrees to "Comply with the requirements regarding PEG channels outlined in I.C.8-1-34-25,26,26.5, and 27, including any PEG channel capacity, facilities or financial support that may be required by the Commission upon petition of a [local unit of government] or unincorporated area ... or upon the Commission's own motion..." The IURC is concerned about the northern Indiana closings, but in order for the Commission to investigate, offer an opinion, or take an action, a petition or official complaint must be brought before it. Local governments and a group of 10 or more customers are among those who can petition the IURC. While individual customers can also file a complaint with the IURC's Consumer Affairs Division, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency specifically tasked with representing customer interests before the IURC.

To stay informed and help protect and grow our channels in Indiana, PEG access television, visit

Andrea Price is President of Public Access of Indianapolis Board

This article was originally published in The Right of Way newsletter by Public Access of Indianapolis .

( categories: Comcast | INDIANA | State Franchises )