Analysis of Cable TV Franchise Agreements Nationwide
For Successful Community Access TV Negotiations with Charter Communications
In 2005, I was contracted by Don Repella, Executive Director of the Pasadena Community Access Corporation, to compile a report comparing and contrasting the many terms negotiated in the legal agreements between approximately 100 cities or counties nationwide and the cable television companies thereby granted exclusive franchises to serve their communities. PCAC’s agreement with Charter Communications was coming up for renewal; and Mr. Repella wanted to get an idea of what considerations communities similar to or different from Pasadena, California, were and were not getting from recent renewals.
One area of particular interest to Don, who is very technologically advanced, was the upgrading of equipment, particularly with the rapid pace of innovation since the previous contract. And concerned about the community, he was determined to maintain and, if possible, improve the terms of “PEG” Access Channels: Public Access (for citizen-producers of original programming, such as Barry Gordon’s NewsRap), Educational Access (as by local K – 12 and community college districts), and Governmental Access (as for televising city council meetings, very popular with civic-minded audiences, as in Pasadena).
The first step was to obtain copies of the actual franchise agreements, each of which typically comprised scores of printed pages; the organization and wording of these legal documents varied considerably, although the key issues were addressed in each — if one knew where and how to find them amongst all the “legalese.” About half of the agreements I found online, in the Web sites of the cities or counties served. About a quarter of the agreements I obtained by e-mailing city clerks nationwide. And most of the remaining agreements PCAC had already obtained, along with supplemental information they also provided me. In the process of my research, I also discovered valuable sources of information, online, which I of course shared with PCAC, for their future reference.
- Click here to view a PDF sample of an original (draft) franchise agreement.
- Click here to view a PDF sample of one of the hundred or so summaries of franchise agreements that I prepared and delivered to Don in both print and digital formats.
I am happy to report that negotiations went well between the city of Pasadena and their cable television provider. Under Don’s leadership, the Pasadena Community Network has continued to develop, both technologically and creatively, involving and serving their vibrant community.
Typical Content of a Cable Television Franchise Agreement
- City, State
- Year / Franchise Term
- Cable Company
- Number of Subscribers
- Franchise Fee
- Local Programming Fee
- Administrative Fee
- Liquidated Damages
- Program/Channel Line-Up
- Emergency Alert System
- Local Office
- System Construction
- Audit Provisions
- Customer Service
- Enforcement Mechanisms
- Performance Security
- Technical Standards & Enforcement
- Construction Standards & Enforcement
BUILD-OUT (Cabling the Community)
- Cable Service to Public Buildings
- When Rebuilt
- Internet Capabilities
I-NET (Institutional Network)
- Who Provides? / How Much?
- What Linked?
PEG: ACCESS CHANNELS
- Number Initially
- Number After X Months/Years
- Number After Digital Transition
PEG: ACCESS SUPPORT
- What is Supported?
- Facilities & Equipment / Title
- Who Supports PEG Access?
- Cable Company
- How is Support Provided?
- Initial Grant
- Subsequent Grant(s)
- On-Going Per Subscriber Fee
- Program Listings
- Promotional Spot Insertions
- Billstuffers (promotional materials sent with bills)
PEG: SERVICE TO PUBLIC BUILDINGS
- Coverage/Drops (of cable to buildings)
- Upstream Capabilities (of sending information back to server, for two-way interactive communications, as to order a movie or send an e-mail)
PEG: RELOCATION OF CHANNELS