February 06, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced her support of S. 3218, the Protecting Community Television Act, legislation that would protect the funding of community television stations, which educate and inform viewers across Hawaii.
In Hawaii, community television stations Na Leo, Hoike, Akaku, and Olelo broadcast across Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui County, and Oahu, respectively. These stations rely on the franchise fees paid by cable companies to provide invaluable coverage of local news and other content like live streaming of official State of Hawaii governmental meetings, county meetings, cultural events and festivals, cooking shows, sports, and other programs.
In August 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed long-standing rules to allow cable companies to subtract the value of certain “in-kind” contributions from the total amount the cable operator pays in franchise fees to the local community—fees used to support community television stations. This change will force local governments to choose between funding these community television stations and other vital community resources like libraries or schools, a result that will almost certainly decrease the funding available to community television stations. S. 3218 reverses this harmful FCC decision by reaffirming that franchise fees that cable companies pay to local governments can only be collected in monetary form, and cannot include in-kind contributions.
“Community television stations provide an opportunity for diverse voices across our community to be heard. From students interviewing their elected officials to streaming local cultural festivals, community television provides an essential outlet for Hawaii residents to engage directly with their neighbors. I support the Protecting Community Television Act because storytelling and recording our history is essential, and we must protect our local programs accordingly,” Senator Hirono said.
Local programming allows everyone from students to seniors to broadcast their stories. Olelo has certified over 19,000 community members as local producers, ensuring that community members can tell their own stories in their own way.
Last month, Olelo organized the 14th annual Youth Capitol Commentary during the State Legislature’s opening day. This year, 60 students from 14 Oahu schools conducted 131 interviews of lawmakers, the public, the Governor, and the Lieutenant Governor. The student interviews will air for five hours across Olelo platforms.
“As a youth who’s been involved with Olelo Community Media since second grade, I’ve been empowered with the knowledge, skills and more importantly the confidence to make a difference in my community through public access. Now in the 8th grade, I’m equipped to be an access producer, mentor and a leader to other students while giving back to my community in assisting my elders technically so they, like me, have the confidence to stand for their beliefs to make a difference on important issues that matter to them and our community via Olelo Community Media,”Jaylee Canoy, a junior leader at Olelo’s Nanakuli Media Center said.
“Under the new FCC rule, thousands of community access media organizations across the nation may have their operating budgets slashed. Olelo has taught keiki and kupuna how to use new technology for decades, empowering communities to create and distribute programs that inform and engage. This rule can effectively kill hyper-local media, and the ability for local voices to share stories and coverage by and for their own communities. The Protecting Community Television Act will allow stations like Olelo to continue to provide government accessibility and community engagement,” Sanford Inouye, President and CEO of Olelo said.
“Hoike: Kauai Community Television provides our island residents with classes, equipment, and educational programs with expert advice so that everyone has the ability and the right to share and tell their stories on the cable system. These are the intimate stories–featuring arts and entertainment, spiritual guidance, health and wellness, sports, public affairs, environmental issues and most importantly as a spotlight on the showcase of cultural activities and entities on our island. Protection and support for community television is critical,” J Robertson, Hoike: Kauai Community Television Managing Director said.
“For nearly fifty years, public access community television stations like Akaku have been a beacon of free speech where anyone can come talk story, most of it local. Public access television keeps us informed, educated and meaningfully engaged with one another, even with many communities in Hawaii separated by water. On behalf of many thousands of supporters of public access television in Maui Nui and Hawaii, we applaud Senator Hirono for her sponsorship of S.3218, the Protecting Community Television Act, which ensures public television can continue to be the vital resource it has been for decades to come,” Jay April, Akaku CEO said.
Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the legislation, which is also supported by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
The Protecting Community Television Act has received endorsements from numerous national organizations, including the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, Alliance for Community Media, TeleCommUnity, and others.
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