Program Content and the Complaints Process at FPAC

access-framingham-blue-v1.jpgFPAC has been receiving a record number of complaints recently from viewers who are unhappy about programs they see on the FPAC channels, so as President of the FPAC Board of Directors, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about program content guidelines and the complaints process at FPAC.

A non-profit cable access station like FPAC is regulated in many ways, by federal and state law, by the Federal Communications Commission, and by cable licensing contracts. There are numerous requirements regarding what a public access station may show, must show or is prohibited from showing. Then there are more regulations regarding exactly how these requirements are enforced, in order to protect the sometimes conflicting rights of video producers, viewers and subjects. Cable access stations must respect these rights and treat different kinds of content equitably, with few exceptions.

Programs suitable for all audiences may be cablecast at any time of day. Programs with content that is commercial, obscene, defamatory, copyright-infringing or otherwise illegal are not permitted. When program content is indecent, profane, vulgar, or otherwise patently offensive or unsuitable for children, but is not commercial or illegal, many access centers limit such programming to late night Safe Harbor hours and require that it contain a warning. This protects children from the negative effects of such programming, while also protecting the rights of individuals with unpopular viewpoints and those who produce or wish to view mature content.

Between the categories lie some gray areas. In order to make a fair determination of which category different programs fall into, FPAC is in the process of instituting procedures for making such determinations and for responding to complaints. More specific content guidelines can be found in Section 2 of the FPAC Member Policies and Procedures.

Also on the Documents page is a link to the Complaint Form. When you see content that you believe violates FPAC Policies, we want to know it! Most of the programs shown on FPAC channels are produced or sponsored by community members, not by FPAC, and they are not ordinarily pre-screened. FPAC relies on the volunteer producers to adhere to FPAC policies, and relies on viewers to inform us when they perceive a problem. For a complaint to be useful and actionable, it must contain a precise description and exact quote of the alleged violation, and the exact point in the program at which it appeared. Using the Complaint Form helps us collect the information we need to make determinations and enforce FPAC policies. We want to hear from you and appreciate your help.

Of course, you may also see programming which is not in violation of FPAC policies, but to which you strongly object, or with which you disagree. In that case, we hope you will come on down to FPAC and create a program expressing your own opinion, which is what cable access is really all about. FPAC membership is only $30/year ($15 for minors and seniors), and provides opportunities for free training, free use of equipment, free assistance in the recording studio, and the chance to meet a lot of interesting people and share your ideas and opinions with the Framingham community. Hope to see you there!

Gwendolyn Holbrow

President, FPAC Board of Directors