Public, educational, and government access television (also PEG-TV, PEG channel, PEGA, Local-access television) refers to three different cable television narrowcasting and specialty channels. Public-access television was created in the United States between 1969 and 1971 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and has since been mandated under the Cable Communications Act of 1984, which is codified under 47 USC § 531. PEG channels consist of:
- Public-access television – Generally quite free of editorial control, a form of non-commercial mass media where ordinary people can create television programming content which is transmitted through cable TV The channels are reserved free or at a minimal cost. The local origination television content revolves primarily around community interest, developed by individuals and nonprofit organizations.
- Educational-access television – Is distance education, a curated form of educational television, it is a synchronous learning educational technology unique to cable television systems and transmit instructional television, on Time Warner Cable channel 21, programming within city limits. Educational-access channels are generally reserved for educational purposes and are not for government-access or public-access television. Many schools have adapted educational access channels to enhance school curriculum. Some schools have done this better than others. Although the use of television in schools can be traced to those schools serving the bedroom communities of Manhattan in the 1960s, where executives and technicians of early television lived, the creation of PEG channels expanded the value of television as a school or community resource. Students produced and aired community stories in part to serve community stakeholders and in part to engage in active learning. These schools developed school-based community television as a storytelling laboratory.
- Government-access television – Cable channel capacity for the local government bodies and other legislative entities to access the cable systems to televise public affairs and other civic meetings. Government channels are generally reserved for government purposes and not for education-access or public-access television.
- Leased access – Cable television channels that are similar to commercial television where a fee is paid-for-services of reserved channel time.
- Municipal-access television – or "Community Access television" are ambiguous terms that usually refer to a channel space assigned on a Cable TV System intended to provide the content to all or some of the above listed access channels, and may contain other "access" programming such as "religious access" or the TV programming of a local institution, such as a college or a library. These channels are usually created as cost saving measures for the Cable TV company if their franchises or governing authorities allow it.
- Hybrid – Often, one channel will take on the role of another channel type on a regular basis. An example of this would be a college with a strong television production curriculum assumes the roles of educational access and public access. Beyond the typical curated educational access programming, a public access television element would be added where public access television producers would make shows using college owned ( or shared) equipment and college students as crew. This can be very beneficial to both entities, as the students earn credits for the work while contributing to the public access channel. However, difficulties can arise when the programming made for public access is of a type that does not reflect the values or tastes of the supporting college, and in such situations, colleges often make the decision to downplay or abandon the public access element of the channel, depending on how much funding is earned by assuming the public access television duties.
The channel numbering, signal quality, and tier location of these channels are usually negotiated with a local authority, but often, these choices are made with the intention of one or more of the parties involved to marginalize one channel and emphasize another, such as placing Government access on channel 3 or 10, Educational access on a channel numerically near a PBS station, and Public Access in the high 90's or higher on a digital-only service tier. Various Cable TV companies have marginalized PEG programming in other ways, such as moving some or all of them to a sub-menu on the cable box, giving subscribers limited bandwidth access (and limited picture quality) to the channel, while also separating the PEG channels from the commercial channel lineup in an effort to fulfill their franchise obligations while discouraging the channels use, and hopefully eliminate the PEG channels that have the least political power.