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Business and Economy

Federal Court Upholds Maine Law Protecting Access To Community TV

Erwin Verbruggen
Flickr/Creative Commons
Picture by Erwin Verbruggen

In a blow to commercial cable companies doing business in Maine, a federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a recent state law that aims to protect Mainers' access to community television programming.

Cable companies' franchise deals with municipalities usually include provisions for funding and carrying programming by public, educational and governmental stations commonly called PEG access.

In recent years, some cable companies have booted those PEG stations from easily found channels numbered in the single digits to more obscure channels much higher up the dial. They’ve also transmitted public programming in low-quality formats and provided minimal information in programming guides.

In 2019, Maine’s Legislature enacted a law barring those practices, and setting new standards for extending cable service in rural areas.

The cable companies challenged the measures in court, saying that federal law preempts the Maine statute. This week a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s support for the Maine law.

In a press statement, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said community TV stations are “a priceless public resource, and the court’s ruling will go far in ensuring their continuing vitality.”

A spokesman for the cable companies' trade association said the decision was under review.