The Prince George's County Council last week approved an amendment to the county code that would dramatically increase application and franchise fees for cable television firms, require Cable Television Commission members to disclose their financial interests, and force cable franchise firms to provide public access channels and introduce an equal opportunity employment program.
Under the bill amending the county code, cable firms seeking a franchise in the county would have to pay an application fee of $10,000 -- up from the present $2,000 -- and another $100,000 -- up from the present $20,000 -- when granted a franchise.
In addition, the bill raises the required minimum value of the franchise winner's performance bond from $100,000 to $350,000. Performance bonds are a kind of insurance against default by a franchise.
Other provisions of the bill would force cable television franchisees to provide facilities for local broadcast origination, and channels for educational and other noncommercial public uses within six months after beginning services to subscribers.
Firms granted franchises in Prince George's County would also have to implement as equal opportunity employment program. Under such a program, the firms would be required to recruit women and minority employes aggressively, and file a report with the cable commission executive director each year outlining their progress in implementing the program.
In other action, the County Council approved two bills regulating the transport of nuclear waste through Prince George's.
One bill providing minimum standards and regulations for the transport of radioactive materials requires shippers to file bond with the county to cover the costs of clean-up should an accident occur, plus map routings of all shipments and dates of transport. In addition, the county executive would have to issue an emergency certificate before such shipments could be made through the county.
Another bill passed by the council requires that local police be notified by shipments of radioactive materials and that police escorts be provided.
"We have no way of knowing exactly how many and what kinds of radioactive shipments are being shipped though Prince George's County," said council member Sue V. Mills, the sponsor of the bills. "But there is persuasive evidence that the volume of these shipments and the hazards associated with them are substantial and could increase in the near future if unchecked."