LAPA Leased Access Programmers Association

A Quick Overview of Leased Access

Here’s a quick overview of ‘leased access’ and how by exercisingthis little known law, programmers with no affiliation with the local cable operator must be provided airtime on a channel for commercial content free from any editorial control of the operator.

Rates for this airtime are normally based on ‘time of day’ with cable operators charging the highest ‘per hour’ price for evening time slots and the lowest during early AM.However, the total of all time slots when compiled for a full month cannot exceed a ‘per subscriber’ amount set by FCC.

Cable sites can, and most do, charge for technical assistance if of a type not provided other ‘non-leased’ programmers. This is usually an ‘insertion’ or handling fee for physically putting the program in whatever device they use to play the video for transmission to the channel.

Additionally FCC has long agreed operators can require LAPers (leased access programmers) to require the user to carry “Media Perils” insurance.

While the law and FCC rules have it appear this should be as simple and easy as securing a bulk mail permit and then meeting post office handling requirements when mailing, the fact is FCC is so lax in their administration it results in operators often hindering the actual use of airtime.

This is where our associationattempts to help by seeing that those enterprising television programmers desiring to avail themselves of the local distribution considered important enough by Congress to establish ‘leased access’ under Section 612 of the Communications Act, as amended (47 USC 532, 47 CFR 76.970 et seq.)

LAPA president Charlie Stogner’s StogTv network has an ‘affiliate’ program that secures the necessary agreements, provides the insurance and assists the local programmer in getting a show or shows on the cable site they choose.In addition, they can provide the infrastructure to bypass any local cable ‘insertion’ or handling fees as well as offering ‘live TV’ capability, separate from the airtime.

StogTv fees for both airtime access and technical support are scheduled to be less than it would cost a local programmer to deal direct with the cable site. There is a modest fee for becoming an affiliate and is to offset some of the expense in time required to get a formal leased access agreement with a local site and there is a minimum one-year lease on the equipment necessary for circumventing cable handling fees.

As president of LAPA (Leased Access Programmers Association), Stogner gladly provides basic information on what is needed for any prospective LAPer to secure airtime.If the prospect wishes to be an affiliate and have StogTv handle getting them on the cable site, then the affiliate fee is required in advance of any activity on their part.

Time Warner Charge Borders Absurdity

Time Warner reached a new pinnacle in unreasonable charges when they billed WNTS Television, a StogTv affiliate, $40.00 for an hour of technical support to send them an email advising they would not be able to provide them any technical support.

A Sad Day for WNTS

It's a sad day for one television station, WNTS in rural Upstate New York.

The video server that was supposed to be installed within two weeks of delivery is still not operational today, seven weeks after it was shipped to the headend. On the Time Warner list of things to do, attention to this small independent broadcaster falls right below "Kick the Dog".

The station's plans to be utilizing the server over the last month have been unachievable, and today, October 1st, 2010, a major milestone for the small community station, plans for the first live broadcast, a fund raising telethon for the local "Meals on Wheels" organization, are ruined. Breaking the news that we would be unable to show the event was a sad and difficult task.

In spite of constant emails asking for assistance and information, requests remained unanswered for nearly four weeks.Even after receiving a response, getting any type of action has been agonizingly slow.

This delay has cost us a great deal of money from our advertisers and sponsors We are unable to offer local news, weather, and sports. Confidence in our station is waning, and a charitable organization that provides a much needed community service also has to suffer.I am disappointed, angry, embarrassed, and frustrated, and I hope we find a way to make the giant service providers like Time Warner realize the importance of responding the needs of the communities they serve.

Google's Groupon groping reveals the shifting power in the web world

First Yelp, now Groupon: Why hot startups -- especially those holding the key to "local" -- keep slipping through the search giant's fingers.

The article goes on to relate how Groupon, Facebook and others are helping refocus marketing to the local, micro-local level; for example being able to use Groupon to get a coupon from a local restaurant in your immediate area. Or find a local coupon via the Facebook site of the business.

It seems as if it is taking an exploding Internet program to force recognition that the very basis of media, the local town crier and then the hand printed and distributed flyer is ultimately the backbone of any economic model.

It seemed for a while national news services and widely circulated major city newspapers were going to drive small town, community based, newspapers out of existence.One could have thought satellite radio would be the death of local, especially AM but today it seems AM is experiencing a revival, fueled considerably by local Talk-Radio.

But what is being overlooked by far too many is that ‘leased access’ is the ultimate in being able to micro-target, especially if we succeed in getting the rules adopted by FCC in late 2007 out of court and into existence.

NCTA’s site (the national cable association) reports there were 7,677, down from 7,853 in 2008, and a high of 11,408 in 1988. The consolidation of cable systems and collapsing of headends is resulting in few opportunities to have local cable operations. However, as cable switches more and more to Internet delivery of video and even begins to permit advertisers to target specific subscribers, they’re playing our tune of truly local programming.

A few years back Time Warner succeeded in getting FCC’s then Cable Services bureau, to uphold them denying local site distribution of leased access in Houston, Tx. Saying their technology wouldn’t support it. However it wasn’t long before their Media sales, (ad insert) partners were promoting the idea of advertisers choosing zones. When they later collapsed a additional suburban site making the local leased access programmer going from $2,000 a month full time to over $211,500, the local programmer filed a ‘petition for relief’ to show FCC TimeWarner was not only doing what they said they could not, but was openly promoting it on their website.

Well, T/W decided in this case they could indeed continue to permit the LAPer to only distribute and pay for the small town system he was using.

The point is, FCC in the new rules adopted in late late 2007 and subsequently ‘stayed in federal court after the cable industry spent some $10 million to do so, had a rule to force cable operators to provide leased access channels in any area they had the technology to do so. Think about it. If cable can have a local subscriber order a show as VOD and show it on a TV set while also viewing this ‘subscribed to’ channels on others, it’s obvious they have the technology to provide channels at very targeted geographic areas.

If you want to know how StogTv now is able to provide ‘live’ TV programming for LAPers and offers a service where programmers do not have to purchase the expensive Media Perils insurance, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for info.

Leased Access Experience

We had been planning our local television station for over two years. There was previously a local television station across the street from our building that had gone out of business, and we had a retiring school teacher who ran a television station for his school that was going to come on board and help get everything setup.

We contacted our local cable company regarding the fiber cable that used to feed the old television station signal. Their technician confirmed that it could be readily moved across the street to our building and that we should be able to use it. Unfortunately when their home office heard about the arrangement, the fiber became a "managed service" with a price tag of over $1300.00 per month. This was too much for our modest startup budget. We asked if we could deliver content over the internet and were told no. We asked if we could set a server in the headend and feed the shows via internet and let the server stream the video. We were told that they were not allowed to have equipment not owned by them in their headend. I asked if we could give the computer to them, and they told us no, they could not have unapproved hardware in their headend. I asked if they could pick out a computer that we would purchase for them and they advised that they would look into the possibility, but we never received an answer. They did tell us that we could make VHS cassette tapes, not DVD's, that they would play on a channel, charging for the leased time and a fee for inserting each tape. They later purchased a DVD player and we were offered a similar setup for them to play our DVD's.

They also needed a million dollar broadcasters E&O insurance policy in case someone sued over any of our content, and several other guarantees that we would be filtering our content before broadcast.

Our retired teacher ended up taking a job with a local radio station and we were about to give up on the project when I ran across Charlie Stogner and LAPA. A veteran of the business, Charlie told us we could sign on as his affiliate and be covered under his insurance. He would lease the channel and we would use it for our broadcasts, similar to using someone’s bulk mail permit. The modest fee he charged was less than we would have paid for the insurance alone. He immediately contacted our cable operator, cut through the red tape, obtained permission to set a server in the headend, and got us up and running in a couple of weeks. We are now broadcasting in our local area from 11:00am to 7:00pm daily and plan to expand our coverage area and our hours by this fall.

Our cable company has been less than cooperative. It feels like they drag their feet and place obstacles in our way whenever possible.Originally placing us on the standard tier they have moved us to the digital tier because the FCC requirement is that we reach “most” of their subscribers, which in my mind would be 80%-90%, but in their minds is 50.01%.Another consideration not factored into the equation is the number of television sets in the subscription area.Most digital cable subscribers have one digital box hooked to one television and then several other televisions hooked to basic cable.Our channel can only be viewed on the television set with the digital box, additional sets perhaps in a den or a bedroom are not able to view our programming.

We have also had problems receiving any type of verification that our programming has aired.We have had several occasions where people have called in and said our programming was not on, or started late, or cut out.We can not receive the channel in our office, and to spite my pleas to provide us at low or no cost the single channel that we lease at our office to monitor, or provide the signal at the headend where we could use a slingbox to monitor the broadcast, they insist that we purchase the entire digital cable package for our office to view our channel.I monitor the channel from my home every chance I get.They usually start our broadcast near the proper time but consistently end the broadcast 1 or 2 minutes before it should.This seems trivial, but usually results in our tediously timed programming to be cut off in the middle of a segment.

If you are considering a local television station, which I believe we need more and more in this homogenized, bulk packaged media era of ours, I strongly recommend joining LAPA and signing on as a StogMedia affiliate.You will see savings and support far beyond the small royalty fees you will pay.  And the fees that Charlie collects will be well invested by him to secure the rights of the small independent programmer against the giant cable systems trying to squash them out of existence.