If cable systems are forced to set aside 2 percent of revenues for expanded PEG facilities, they will undoubtedly pass on some portion of their costs to consumers by raising their subscriber fees. Michigan cable customers already complain about rising cable costs, so a new legislative mandate that they pay millions of dollars more for their cable services would hardly be welcome.

Of course, if cable customers saw the value in the mandated PEG fees, then they might be willing to pay. If they were willing, however, it seems likely that cable systems would have already realized this and devoted more resources to PEG channels in an attempt to attract and satisfy more customers.

The benefits cable customers would receive from additional PEG fees seems paltry when compared to the cost they would pay. All of the PEG fees would be required to go to expanded PEG facilities — not to programming, equipment, or employee salaries. Thus, cable customers would likely see the same government meetings, school concerts and sporting events televised from impressive new studios, but with no significant change in programming content.

While public access channels have passionate supporters, the channels are left over from previous decades when far fewer alternatives were available to viewers and content producers. If local programming on public access channels is truly valued, it does not depend on the increases in franchise fees that would be sparked by House Bill 5047 and Senate Bill 636. History and the video marketplace show that the market, not the state government, is the right place to decide this matter.