The Leesburg Town Council last night upheld its decision granting the town's cable television franchise to the giant Storer Broadcasting Co.
In a 5-to-2 vote, the council rejected arguments from competitors that an agreement between Storer and the politically influential Loudoun Times-Mirror newspaper violates the town's cable television ordinance as well as federal and state antitrust laws.
The decision capped months of controversy and allegations of influence peddling in Leesburg, a town of 10,000 that is viewed by cable experts as a stepping stone to more lucrative cable markets in nearby Loudoun and Prince William counties.
Storer has denied that its plan to give the Times-Mirror exclusive access to one cable channel constitutes unfairly preferential treatment.
"I am certainly going to heave a sigh of relief tonight," said Mayor Kenneth B. Rollins, as he left the town hall. "This has been rough on all of us."
It is expected to take 60 to 90 days before Storer begins construction of the cable system, which will bring the company an estimated $750,000 in revenues annually when it is completed.
Bill Still, the editor of the Monitor, a small local weekly newspaper, said he plans to continue his challenge of the Storer franchise award. "The council has stomped squarely on logic, reason, and common sense," said Still.
Still, who claims that Storer's exclusive agreement with the Times-Mirror could drive his paper out of business, has filed complaints on the matter with the Justice Department and the attorney general of Virginia.