Under a ground swell of 54 support letters and more than a dozen speakers,  Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) 39, aimed at helping fiscally struggling public, education and government (PEG) cable television channels, earned unanimous 12-0 approval Monday by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee at the California State Capitol.

Speakers line up to show support for AJR 39 before a CA Assembly hearing Monday.

Speakers line up to show support for AJR 39 before a CA Assembly hearing Monday.

Assembly member Roger Hernández (D-Dist. 48, West Covina) authored AJR 39 which, if approved by the full CA Assembly and Senate, would call on US Congress to change laws restricting the way PEG community centers can spend money to help residents with training and equipment to tell the stories of their communities.

“It’s like having money for a library building and books, with no money to hire a librarian to order the books and keep the doors open,” said Hernández.  AJR 39 “urges Congress to allow states and their municipalities to determine the best use of public, educational and government funds.”

Representatives from across California attended the hearing, representing cities and counties, and access community centers from as far south as Long Beach to Marin County, Sacramento and Access Humboldt in the north..

PEG channels are known across the US for their commitment to providing outreach that informs viewers of local political news, community events, and culturally diverse programs not seen on regular commercial television.

Letters of support were listed from 54 different cities, counties, community groups and PEG access centers.  A lobbyist from the California Cable & Telecommunications Association opposed AJR 39 saying if local governments really support PEG broadcasting, they should pay for it themselves from franchise fees the cable company already collects for their use.

Hernández countered with the notion that restricting dollars the way the current law does is like having medical insurance that pays for medical equipment like a wheelchair, but not the doctor.  He said US Congress needs to change the PEG rules, because they simply don’t make sense.

As an expert witness, Sue Buske of The Buske Group in Sacramento, said the restrictions enacted in 2007 have forced 51 PEG centers in California to close for lack of appropriate funding. While federal law requires cable television providers to give channel space to PEG broadcasting and ensured some dollars for equipment, the federal law has not been revisited since 1984, and AJR 39 if approved in the CA Assembly and Senate would ask US Congress to fix the rules and allow cities and counties the right to authorize funding in a more flexible way.