The P.E.G Revolution
Why You should Join Us
by Martin Anaya
PCT is the oldest Community Media Center (CMC) in the US. As such, we have been on the forefront of education on community media, setting many of the precedents that define community media and P.E.G.
What is PEG?
PEG is short for Public, Education and Government. This refers to a station that produces or facilitates programs which fall into one of these three vital public interest categories. While this is a very important mission, it may be a bit dry for today's "Reality TV" 24 Hour News cycle media landscape.
So how do we describe the value of PEG given the current state of media?
The cable industry likes to pat itself on the back for creating and funding C-SPAN, the national cable channel that brings gavel to-gavel coverage of the US Senate and House of Representatives proceedings. This is advertised as "Public Access to the political process" and is seen as a "revolutionary" alternative to the world of entertainment driven television.
A "Radical" Idea
According to authors Stephan Frantzich and John Sullivan, in their book, "The C-Span Revolution", the Cable created network has revolutionized TV from a method of entertainment delivery to a method of unfiltered information delivery. They even call this transformation a "radical" idea.
Of course, the notion of TV as a primarily educational medium wasn't always a radical idea. The Federal Communications Commission was chartered to require broadcasters to operate in the "Public Interest". While it seems the standards of what is considered "Public Interest" have become somewhat elastic over the years, the truth is that in the very early days, TV was sold to the public as a method of information delivery and a means to tie together the local culture through public affairs programs.
The "Golden Era"
TV's early "Golden Era" was punctuated with insightful news programs like "Face the Nation" and Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now". Even much of the entertainment seemed educational, as in the 1957 re-creation of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" or programs like "Playhouse 90" and "Kraft Television Theatre".
So perhaps C-Span is less revolutionary idea and more a "reversionary" idea, a reversion to the way it used to be. Still, when Brian Lamb and friends invented C-SPAN, their mission of making government more available to its citizens was actually radical for its time.
A Local C- Span
If C-Span is such a revolution, doesn't that concept deserve a local component? Is that idea too radical? Shouldn't local government be just as “radically” transparent? Some local communities do indeed have local government channels run by the local governments themselves. C-Span however, is independent. As such their coverage is both impartial and insightful in a way I dare suggest a government run operation could not be. Also, there is hunger for local audiences to see and hear their local concerns being addressed. Therefore, any attribute one may ascribe to C-Span on a national level one may also ascribe to a P.E.G. station like PCT on the local level.
1) Creating a more transparent democracy
2) Allowing a forum for public views and opinion about the body politic.
3) Creating community togetherness and opportunities to engage elected leaders.
4) Creating space for local culture and art to flourish.
The First amendment to the U.S. constitution established our right to free speech as law. It fosters open debate, better political decisions and, as Professor Lee Bollinger describes it, "social tolerance" that we all may be more accountable and civil to one another. But the first amendment was adopted in1791, long before the era of electronic communications. Fast-forward two hundred and twenty plus years and let’s ask ourselves the question again, "What is Freedom of Speech in the 21st century?" What does freedom look like in this electronic era? More importantly, will we, the people be at the effect of it, or at the wheel of it?
Big Media and the "little guy"
As the internet slowly begins to resemble TV, greater pressure will be placed to squeeze the common voice off of the traditional cable space. In truth, P.E.G. is the only place the common man or woman has on cable now. With products like ATT's "U-verse", PEG programmers are being squeezed off the basic cable line-up in favor of more golf, more shopping and more HD. Community stations are more and more relegated to second class status in their placement. In fact, Satellite operators carry no PEG programming at all, one major reason why you'll never see a satellite dish at my house.
To be certain, the big media corporations will retain the top real estate by keeping their trying to squeeze the common voice off the basic cable spectrum. Yet, if we think of these companies as “developers” who use our public rights of way to build private business on public land, then we should look at P.E.G. as our electronic “green-space”. These companies are licensed by our public representatives to do a service for all of us. Requiring them to provide a space for local flavor should be the least we can expect. Still, little by little, our "Public Access" rights are being eroded. Think of all the local news, opinions and culture that could be lost or in some communities could never become a reality.
We Need a Revolution
Who now can imagine cable TV without C-Span? Must be heresy to even think it, right? Well friend, that's the attitude we need in the P.E.G. world. We need a revolution, the like of which will create a sea-change of greater freedom of speech and more voices at the table. As we go through endless cycles of election, keep something in mind. Many in power profit when those without power have no voice. But society profits greatly when all have access to freedom of speech and equality. Again, what we need is a revolution, a P.E.G. revolution.
So how can you help? For starters, you can put your money where your mouth is. If you believe these resources at PCT are vital then call us today and pledge an amount, any amount. As we go, there will be other ways to help. For now, do what you can and help us grow this idea, this notion that ”Truth, Freedom and independence in TV”, as my good friend Bruce Latimer calls it, really matters.
Call us today: 650-355-8000