Wareham Free Library’s request for new equipment uncertain in face of potential FCC rule change

Feb 19, 2019

A request for a new projector and recording equipment at the Wareham Free Library was met with hesitation by Selectmen on Tuesday night in the face of a potential FCC rule change that could affect WCTV’s ability to carry out the installation.

The request for the items was put forward by Wareham Free Library Director George Ripley, who said the library had seen an uptick in programming and attendance since its recertification in November of 2018.

“More and more people are looking for a place where they can get together and better Wareham,” Ripley said. “The drawback is that we don’t have the tools they need.”

A projector installed in the library’s main meeting room would be used by various organizations for presentations, Ripley said, and recording equipment would allow for WCTV to broadcast library events.

A recent library event hosted by the Wareham Department of Natural Resources attracted over 50 people according to Ripley, highlighting the need for the new technology.

“It would be a service to the community to get that information out via broadcast,” Ripley said. “We had people driving over from Bourne just to attend.”

Per the town’s contract with WCTV, Selectmen can request that the local studio purchase and install equipment for various departments. A potential FCC rule change made Selectmen hesitant to approve the request, however. 

Local access television stations are funded through a franchise fee cable companies pay to municipalities as compensation for using town-owned land to build the necessary infrastructure, like cable lines, to deliver cable service to residents.

The federal Cable Communications Policy Act, passed in 1984, governs these fees, which are used to fund public, educational, and government access (PEG) programming.

Under the proposed rule change, cable companies could be allowed to offset franchise fees by deducting certain “in-kind services” from the total granted to cities and towns. However, exactly what cable companies could be allowed to count as “in-kind” is a complete mystery.

Knowing that this rule change may affect WCTV’s budget, Selectman Alan Slavin suggested Ripley provide the board with a list of specific items and their pricing.

“Spoke to Mr. Ruiz previously,” Slavin said. “And I know he has some concerns financially.”

To read more about the proposed FCC rule change, click here.