Every 15 years the City renegotiates a franchise agreement that gives Comcast access to city "right-of-ways," like roadways, to provide its cable service. The city asks for certain givebacks to the community in exchange. Now after nearly two years of fact finding, public hearings and negotiations the City has finally reached a new 15-year cable franchise with Comcast that contains funding and important channel quality guarantees for the city’s public, education and government (PEG) access television channels.
The agreement is already being recognized across the country as historic in its gains for low-income communities. Terms include more cable and Internet discounts, increased customer service protections, expansions of affordable Internet, and greater protections for cable and Internet consumers and workers. Announcement of the terms in early December prompted the HYPERLINK "http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2015/12/08/philadelphias-agreement-with..."City of Seattle to go back to the negotiating table with Comcast to secure a deal similar to those detailed in Philly’s new agreement.
Early in the negotiations things weren’t looking good for PhillyCAM when Comcast refused any financial support for PEG. During an eight-hour City Council hearing on November 12th PhillyCAM members turned out in force to show their support and testify as to why public access is important. Thanks to their moving testimonies we were able to secure an increase in support from $9 to $11 million over the term of the agreement.
Anthony Riddle, head of Brooklyn’s public access television called PhillyCAM the “precocious child of public access.” Recognizing how in only a few short years PhillyCAM has established a national reputation for not just its television programming but for operating a vibrant community media center that connects, meets unique interests and needs, and teaches people to become creators, not just consumers, of high quality media.
However, the new franchise does reflect a decrease in support for PhillyCAM. The final financial contribution does not match what PhillyCAM had been receiving in the last franchise, around $837,500 per year, and will leave the organization facing a deficit in coming years if additional funding is not secured.
Mike Wassenaar, president of the Alliance for Community Media, an advocacy group that supports PEG channels testified that “When one examines the comparable support in major metropolitan centers for this very work, it seems to me that Philadelphia is being short changed.”
Gretjen Clausing, PhillyCAM’s Executive Director commented: “The City and Comcast have reached agreement on one of the most expansive franchise deals in the country. This shows what can happen when local government, stakeholders and advocates work together for the greater good. We are grateful for the tireless work and unprecedented collaboration shown by the City’s Office of Innovation and Technology and Law Department and Philadelphia City Council, led by Public Property Committee Chairman Bobby Henon. We will continue to work with the new Kenney Administration and City Council on ways for find more support for PhillyCAM’s programs.”
New Comcast Franchise Provisions for PhillyCAM include:
- $11 million of support over the term of the 15 year agreement ($733,333 per year)
- guarantees to cablecast PhillyCAM channels at the same level of quality as any local broadcaster
- pathway for additional PhillyCAM channels to be carried in HD
- increase in the number of public access television programs available through video on demand from 8 hours to 20 hours
- guarantee that viewers will be able to access PhillyCAM’s programs through the program guide
Here are some recent articles about the conclusion of negotiations and the outcomes.
Could the new Comcast contract actually make low-cost internet more accessible in Philadelphia?
Comcast franchise may be win for city, but there’s one loser