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A nonpartisan grassroots civics organization
 
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA
TESTIMONY ON SB 1247 (CABLE CHOICE AND COMPETITION ACT)

PUBLIC HEARING, AUGUST 8, 2006
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY, DELAWARE COUNTY CAMPUS

I am Lora Lavin, President of the League of Women Voters of Delaware County. I am testifying as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Southeastern Pennsylvania, an inter-League organization that includes 12 local chapters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. I am also speaking on behalf of all 39 local League chapters in 36 counties throughout Pennsylvania who use PEG (Public, Education and Government) access provided by their local cable TV providers... The League is a non partisan organization that promotes informed participation in government. The League finds PEG access indispensable in carrying out our mission.

The League has used this technology to broadcast public meetings we have organized on issues of local concern, education programs ranging from health to how to vote, and forums and debates for candidates for local public office. Without access to this technology, our ability to reach a broad audience with these programs would be non-existent. Most people get their information through the broadcast media and most specifically television. But the commercial media have limited interest in covering local issues and even the non-commercial stations are oriented to broader audiences. Even if they were interested, the time available for this coverage would be severely limited. On the other hand, PEG channels allow dissemination of locally generated programming specifically tailored to targeted audiences. For example, in my town, Swarthmore, the League has used the government access channel to broadcast forums and public meetings to Swarthmore cable subscribers and we have used the school district's education channel to broadcast school board candidate forums. Finally, the League of Women Voters of Delaware County used the countywide public access channel to broadcast a forum for candidates for Delaware County Council.

The benefits of PEG access in furthering our mission go well beyond programming we generate. Many local governments choose to use their government channel to announce public meetings and events and broadcast meetings of local government bodies. In this era of concern over emergency preparedness, these channels can also be used to disseminate information specific to a local area.

Unfortunately, not all municipalities have made full use of the opportunities offered by PEG access. Some have not used it at all. Not all local governments were aware of the possibilities of this technology to serve their citizens when they originally negotiated their franchise agreements. But this should not be a reason for denying them the opportunity to do this in the future. PEG access at the local level should also have an adequate, dedicated source of funding through the franchise fees. .

The potential of PEG access in other areas has also not been fully realized. In some parts of the state, the League and other non-profit organizations have benefited from the formation of private, non-profit corporations formed to operate public access channels to the great benefit of those communities. These stations can broadcast local events including sports, musical, theater and other arts presentations.

Rather than foreclosing the future use state of PEG access, legislation should be crafted to encourage its expansion along the lines of the provisions of HB594 would create a PEG access advisory council and create dedicated financing to promote use of this technology..

The League of Women Voters thanks you for this opportunity to present our views on this critical issue. .

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership is open to men and women of 18 years of age or older.