Assemblyman Peter Rivera



NYS Seal

District Office

1262 Castle Hill Avenue
Bronx, New York 10462
(718) 931-2620

The Assembly

Room 842
Legislative Office Bldg.
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-5102

Contact: Guillermo A. Martínez

Public Media Advocates and Lawmakers Voice Their Opposition to Telecommunication Plans that will Destroy Public Access Television in NY, Bypass Local Control

New York, New York - Members of the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force were joined today by public media advocates from throughout the State to denounce plans that would allow telephone companies from entering the digital services market without the same consumer protection in place now in place for cable television companies.

Over the past few years, as telephone companies look to compete with cable television providers for the lucrative digital telecommunication services, local control of franchise agreements has been threatened and community programming through public access stations have begun to see their demise if special franchise agreements are created exclusively for telephone companies. With billions of dollars at stake telephone companies are spending millions to lobby elected officials for special privileges.

According to Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, chair of the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, "We favor an approach which requires the newcomer to digital service live by current rules that require them to negotiate franchise agreements with local governments, preserves public access to the airways, and requires that entire communities will have access to services, not just wealthy communities."

During the Summer of 2004, Rivera and the Task Force intervened as the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) was about to grant the cable industry with the ability to negotiate franchise agreements for up to 15 years terms while simultaneously allowing for the elimination of public, educational and government (PEG) channels available to cable television customers. The PSC backed away and PEGs where saved from the chopping block.

Presently, telephone service providers are moving quickly to compete with cable television and their lucrative digital services. In doing so, the telephone companies want special treatment and to circumvent local governments in establishing their networks. They want a statewide franchise that would allow them to by-pass having to negotiate with local communities. At the same time, companies like Verizon want to select which communities to service based on community income levels. To Rivera and other elected officials, this is a clear cut case of redlining low income communities with the ultimate result being an increase in the digital divide we now see between affluent and low-income communities.

"Where is the competition, the better services, the benefits for the redlined communities?" asked Rivera.

As important to the Task Force is the need to preserve the public access option for communities throughout New York. "We will absolutely oppose any change in telecommunication policy that weakens, dismantles and neglects to provide the same public access option that is now demanded from cable television operators. Telephone companies must be held to the same standards," declared Assemblyman Luis M. Diaz. "PEG stations are community institutions that serve a vital role and must be preserved and protected."

According to Rick Osborne, programming manager for Rochester Community Television, "Any bill that limits local control and the Public Rights of Way defeats the purpose of Public Access. If democracy is to flourish, people must be active participants in their government, educated to think critically and free to express themselves."

Adding to concerns expressed at the press conference was Steve Pierce, executive director of the New York Media Alliance. He stated, "The cable franchising system in New York State needs a serious overall but eliminating local participation in the process is not the way to fix it. Local voices in decisions about developing telecommunications infrastructure are essential for building strong community media resources."

"Public, Educational, Governmental (PEG) Access Television and respect for the public right of way, provides a forum for independent media, media literacy and education," stated Michael Max Knobbe from the Alliance of Community Media New York. He added, "PEG serves as a bridge between constituents and their leaders, contributes to community development, and is a manifestation of our democracy in a digital age. We are committed to enhancing the way PEG serves our communities across this great Empire State, and we invite all to get involved to help move New York forward!"

Guillermo Martinez for Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera - 518-455-5102
Michael Max Knobbe, Chair, Alliance for Community Media NY 917-440-0513
Dan Couglin, Executive Director, Manhattan Neighborhood Network 917-647-9339
David Renner, Executive Director, Penfield TV 585-455-1755
Ricky Osbourne, Program Manager, Rochester Community TV 585-325-1238
Sunny McLean, Community Media on Hudson 914-366-4222
Gene Rodriguez - Capital District Worker Center - 518-482-5595