Commentary: GNAT seeks help in fight against FCC

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GNAT-TV and community media centers across Vermont and the country are local assets that need to be protected and supported now more than ever. Community Media Centers keep us connected. We inform citizens about local government affairs, provide 21st century media skills training, and document and preserve local culture and history.

Ultimately we empower people to tell their story, to share vital local information and to participate in our democracy.

Our programs and services are currently available to anyone working or living in our service area. We maintain state of the art production equipment and studio facilities and train anyone with an interest to use it. GNAT-TV regularly offers quality youth camp & education programs, government meeting & election coverage, local news reporting, community event coverage, and a platform for local organizations to share information.

In 50 or 100 years, people will look at our video coverage to understand our community and our culture.

The origins of community media date back to the passage of the 1984 Cable Act by the U.S. Congress which requires cable companies to set aside non-commercial channels for local programming.

The law essentially requires the cable operators to provide a public good in exchange for private use of public lands and rights of way.

Despite the existing regulatory structure, GNAT-TV is facing a rapidly changing funding and policy environment. The threats are multiple. "Cord cutting" is underway as cable subscribers are seeking new ways to view video content, Comcast is challenging the state's cable franchising authority by appealing its Certificate of Public Good (its license to operate in Vermont) in court, and in the near future, the FCC is expected to institute rule changes that will impact operational funding for community media centers nationwide.

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The result of this rule change could devastate community media and sharply reduce the programs and services we offer to our community.

We are not sitting and waiting to be destroyed by the FCC and the cable industry. We are working with our colleagues on the local, state and federal level to protect community media and ensure our survival.

Because of our collective efforts, the legislature's newly formed "PEG Access Study Committee" will consider the future of community media in Vermont.

I am hopeful that innovative solutions will emerge. I am hopeful that the people of Vermont will demand accountability and demand a system that works for public interests. Advocacy work is complicated and expensive and we need help.

We are asking our citizens to advocate for community media and our values: free speech, open networks and local empowerment. We remind people to connect to one another on GNAT-TV's platforms including our cable channels, YouTube channel and website: gnat-tv.org.

Finally, we are asking for those who can to invest in our collective futures by volunteering, donating and underwriting to support our work.

GNAT-TV belongs to the community and local unfiltered information is essential for success of our communities and our democracy. Thank you for keeping local voices strong!

Tammie M. Reilly is the executive director of Greater Northshire Access Television and Charles Moore is the GNAT-TV board president.


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