Community TV

Public access, educational and governmental television, or PEG stations, are local TV channels that provide programming as diverse as the communities they’re based in. Public access TV plays a vital role in forging community identity. Offerings range from local music videos to city council meetings to community sporting events, and a whole lot in between.

In 1971, filmmaker George Stoney — known as the “father of public access” — founded the Alternate Media Center, which provided tools and training for people interested in creating public access programming. In 1972, Stoney was instrumental in getting the Federal Communications Commission to mandate that cable operators provide modest funding for public access equipment, training and airtime.

The 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act allowed local governments to require cable companies to set aside channels for PEG programming. It also barred cable operators from exercising editorial control over such programming.

Currently more than 1,700 communities around the country have public access stations. There are more than a million public access producers nationwide.

Many public access stations are transforming into media and technology centers. They have expanded their community outreach, teaching media literacy and computer skills and helping outside organizations use audiovisual components in their programming.

Public access centers have faced a number of challenges in recent years. Phone and cable companies are pushing for laws that absolve them of their public interest obligations. Budget cuts have also impacted public access centers, which in some cases have ceased operations.

Free Press supports community TV and believes it provides an important platform for civic discussion and debate.

Blog Posts

  • Northampton Stands Up for Community Media

    February 7, 2014
    Last week people lined up at a microphone in a community meeting room in Northampton, Mass., to express their support for Northampton Community Television. Massachusetts has more than 100 community media centers — more than any other state.
  • All for One and One for All

    May 8, 2013
    Imagine for a moment if 50 percent of America’s media was noncommercial. How would that change whose stories got told and which issues got debated? How would it shape access to information or the role of arts and education in our homes and communities?
  • Vermont Public Access Advocate Recalls George Stoney

    July 17, 2012

    George Stoney, unflagging champion of free speech, open media and opportunity for all, died in his home in New York City on July 12. George was 96 and actively producing movies and supporting public access advocates until the end.

    At the time of his death, George was working with David Bagnali and Dave Olive on an in-depth documentary on the life of Paulo Freire, the late Brazilian educator and activist.

More »

Press Releases

  • FCC Chairman Genachowski to Step Down

    March 21, 2013
    WASHINGTON -- The Wall Street Journal reports that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will announce on Friday that he will step down from his position as head of the agency. Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement: "When Julius Genachowski took office, there were high hopes that he would use his powerful position to promote the public interest. But instead of acting as the people's champion, he’s catered to corporate interests."
  • Free Press to Host 'Owning Our Airwaves: A Community Dialogue with Media Policymakers'

    September 26, 2011

    PITTSBURGH -- On Monday, Sept. 26, Free Press is hosting a community dialogue on the state of the media in Pittsburgh, Pa. featuring Rep. Mike Doyle and Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps.

  • Free Press Cheers New Bill to Protect Community Media

    May 11, 2011

    WASHINGTON — Free Press today endorsed a bill designed to prevent discriminatory practices by cable operators and to ensure a level playing field for community voices in an increasingly consolidated cable industry. The bipartisan Community Access Preservation Act (HR 1746), co-sponsored by Reps.

More »

Learn More

  • Public Media

    We can have an under-funded public media system that is vulnerable to constantly changing political winds, or we can aspire to a public media system that makes use of all technologies available to inspire, educate and inform.
  • Low Power FM Radio

    Low Power FM radio stations are community-based nonprofit outlets that broadcast to neighborhoods and small towns throughout the country.

    LPFM stations have a limited broadcast range of just a few miles, but their impact on communities can be immense. These noncommercial stations inject vibrancy into a radio dial that has suffered from years of media consolidation.

    LPFM stations offer a platform for content and viewpoints that traditional media overlook. These stations foster community identity and serve as hubs for vital safety information during local emergencies.

  • Attacks on Public Media

    Every year, for almost a decade, Americans have ranked public television as the institution they trust most. And more than 70 percent of Americans see funding for public television as money “well spent.” Exactly how much do Americans spend to support this resource? Pocket change: The United States spends less than$1.50 per person on public broadcasting — 20 times less than Germany and a whopping 70 times less than Denmark.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good