Leased access is airtime that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates must be provided by cable operators (such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable) for use by independent cable programmers and producers who are not owned by the operators. Leased access airtime may be purchased on specialty channels by individuals or groups with E&O insurance for the purposes of airing television programming content, usually local programming.
The prices for leased access are subject to a maximum set by an FCC formula and therefore in theory cannot be manipulated by cable companies. Cable companies, however, can "manipulate" prices through lobbying the FCC. Indeed, in 1997, the FCC set maximum prices based on an "average implicit fee" formula which set the prices considered by cable programmers to be very high. Lower prices would likely encourage increased usage of leased access by independent programmers.
Leased access is different from Public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable TV channels, in which producers pay a fee to have a program on a leased access channel, while time on a public-access television channel is free or a minimum cost.
- Brokered programming, radio counterpart to leased access
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