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Access channel policies

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This updated version of access 99 policies was approved by the Fargo Access Channel Board on January 10, 2013.

The City of Fargo operates channel 99, the “public access channel” broadcast on Cable One in Fargo. The city uses the access channel to make available public, educational, and other programming. 
These community access cable channel policies, procedures and rules have been made in accordance with the franchise agreement with Cable One as well as the Federal Cable Act, 47 USC §531.

In applicable part, §5.4 of the Franchise Agreement in subparagraph D. provides:
“The City will be responsible for developing and implementing reasonable
rules and procedures relating to its equipment, facilities and programming for the
Access Channels, including the scheduling of programming and the use of said
Access Channels by the Grantee when not in use for PEG access purposes. …” 

In order to insure the availability of local programming and a mix of programming types, the following policies have been established for the access channel with the approval of the Fargo City Commission, with modifications to the original 2006 policies approved by the Fargo Access Channel Board.

Mission Statement

The mission of Access 99 is to provide a community television station in which residents, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and local government agencies may broadcast programming for the purposes of education, enhancement of culture and diversity, entertainment, and conveying of information.

Section 1 Public Access Programming—content, length, quality and preparation

The access channel program director for the city will establish the programming schedule for the channel.
A.      Programs airing on the access channel may not contain:

  • commercials
  • gambling or lottery information 
  • copyrighted material the broadcaster has not obtained permission to air
  • material or information that violates local, state or federal law
  • solicitations for political donations
  • obscenity, indecency or profanity (defined below)
  • requests for donations to an individual, group or business
  • content that encourages unlawful conduct or
  • sexually explicit conduct

B.      Underwriting acknowledgements
Underwriting acknowledgments contained in a program may not exceed 10 seconds in length per sponsor; total time devoted to underwriter acknowledgment may not exceed 30 seconds per program.
C.      Obscene Program Content
Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution or the laws and constitution of the state of North Dakota or the ordinances of the City of Fargo and will not be broadcast at any time. To be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test: 

  • An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 
  • The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct
    specifically defined by NDCC 12.1-27.1; and 
  • The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

According to the rules of the Federal Communications Commission, the City of Fargo, as the operator of the access channel, may refuse to transmit any public access program or portion of a public access program that it reasonably believes contains obscenity. See Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Volume 4, Section 76.702 for more information.
If the program director is not sure whether a program fits the definition of obscene, indecent or profane, or violates other access policies, he/she will delay its broadcast until the program can be reviewed by the Fargo Access Channel Board. The board will view the program and make a determination about whether it is acceptable for airing. This board will consist of five Fargo residents appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Commission.

D.      Indecent or profane content
The City of Fargo may refuse to broadcast material that it reasonably believes contains indecent or profane content.
The Federal Communications Commission has defined broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity. 
The FCC has defined profanity as “including language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”
Further, public access users are advised that Section 10-0201 and 10-0202 of the Fargo Municipal Code prohibit indecency in a public place.  Playback of such programming in violation of the Fargo Ordinance may subject a producer to a violation of the Fargo Municipal Code.  

E.      Adult Programming Schedule
Adult programming will be aired between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The city reserves the right to determine whether a given program will be defined as adult programming.

F. Audio Visual Standards
Audio levels in programs must be consistent and free from hums, crackling or distortion. Video must be free of tracking problems and graininess. The city’s programming director has the authority to determine whether programs meet these audiovisual standards.

G. Program submission

  • Programs may be submitted on a DVD.
  • DVDs may not contain more than one “menu” screen. DVDs that automatically begin playing are preferred for minimum playback errors.
  • Each DVD should only contain one program.
  • The exact running time of the program in minutes and seconds must be marked on the label of the DVD. This running time should be from the first to the last frame of video and should not include black or color bars. If the program is on DVD, the label should also include a “cue time”. This is the time between the moment the DVD begins playing until it reaches the first frame of video (this may be 0 seconds on some DVDs).
  • Programs not containing this information or those which repeatedly contain inaccurate 
    information may be rejected for broadcast.

H. Rejecting programs
The City of Fargo reserves the right to reject:

  • any program that violates any standard set forth in this document;
  • any program that is less than 10 minutes or greater than 120 minutes in length

I. Programming Responsibility
The producer of a public access program shall be responsible and liable for the content of the programming he/she submits and will be responsible for completing a programming access form setting forth the program description and statements that it is not in violation of the above program content restrictions. The producer agrees to defend and hold harmless the city and its personnel and Cable One from any liability relating to the programming.  

Section 2: Recurring Public Access programs

A. To be guaranteed a weekly time slot on the access channel, a program must:

  • have a Fargo sponsor (defined in section 6);
  • consist of at least 8 distinct episodes of at least 10 minutes in length; and
  • meet the program content standards outlined in section two.

B. Time slot limitations: Each sponsor is entitled to one recurring time slot per week of up to 60 minutes. A second time slot of up to 60 minutes will be provided upon request on a space-available basis. This slot is subject to cancellation at any time.

C. Bi-monthly broadcasts: Sponsors whose program inventory consists of 4 to 7 total episodes may receive a time slot of up to 60 minutes every other week. 
Programs with less than four total episodes are not eligible for recurring time slots.

D. Time slot retention: To retain their recurring time slot, broadcasters must submit at least four new programs every 12 months (“new” refers to programs that have never been broadcast on the access channel), meet drop-off deadlines and comply with all the policies outlined in this document. Failure to comply with any of these policies may result in the loss of the recurring time slot. 
A producer whose recurring program loses its slot due to lack of new programs cannot request a new recurring time slot for the program for a period of six months. 

E. DVD drop-off: The deadline for DVD drop off depends on the day of the week the show will air; deadlines are as follows:

F. Show airs on: DVD drop-off deadline is:
Sunday: Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Monday: Friday at 10 a.m.
Tuesday: Monday at 10 a.m.
Wednesday: Monday at 4:30 p.m.
Thursday: Monday at 4:30 p.m.
Friday: Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Saturday: Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Failure to meet the deadline may result in a program’s pre-emption.

G. Repeated failure to meet deadlines: A broadcaster who receives a recurring time slot is responsible for meeting deadlines for DVD drop-off. If a deadline is missed:
      The programming manager for the city will notify the sponsor by phone, postal mail or e-mail of the first missed deadline. 
      The second missed deadline will result in a notification by mail that the sponsor’s time slot is in jeopardy.
      After the third missed deadline, the sponsor will be notified by mail that his/her recurring time slot has been cancelled. In order to regain a recurring time slot, the program must be submitted 8 consecutive times in advance of a deadline set by the program director; this deadline will be weekly or bi-monthly, depending on the nature of the time slot lost. If the 8 deadlines are met, the sponsor will be re-assigned a recurring time slot, although it may not be the same as the time slot the program held previously.

H. Failure to pick up DVDs: It is the sponsor’s responsibility to ensure that previously aired programs are picked up in a timely manner, unless arrangements have been made for the city to retain the programs for future broadcast. After 30 days, the City of Fargo will discard the programs at its discretion, without any advance notification to the sponsor.
I. Addition of recurring programs to schedule: Recurring programs will be added to the schedule at the beginning of each month. Broadcasters wishing to secure a time slot should submit their paperwork and episodes by the 20th day of the previous month in order to be added to the following month’s rotation. (Example: someone wanting to start airing a recurring show in September should submit his/her items by August 20.)

Section 3: Public Access Programs aired on a space-available basis

Sponsors wishing to air a single program can receive up to five broadcast times for their program over a two-month period, on a space-available basis. Programs must be no more than 120 minutes in length.

Programs submitted without a Fargo sponsor will be aired on a space-available basis, at the discretion of the City of Fargo. They cannot be guaranteed a recurring time slot. The city is under no obligation to air these programs at any time.

Read sections 4 through 7