A high-level D.C. government task force has recommended that the city set up a special cable television office to explore ways of bringing cable television to District residents.
The group urged that any proposal provide that the city retain some ownership of the system, rather than limiting its options to the traditional route of merely granting a franchise to an existing cable company.
The task force suggested that the proposed office look into setting up a quasi-public development corporation, which would be partially owned by the city, to build and operate the system. The panel, which was headed by Office of Business and Economic Development director Lawrence R. Schumake III, also suggested that the proposed cable office examine joint-venture arrangements with cable companies.
Legislation pending before the City Council also would set up a special cable television office, but one designed only to find the best way to enter a conventional franchise arrangement.
City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers said he received the still-secret report Monday and declined to comment on its recommendations. A copy of the document was obtained by The Washington Post.
While the task force did not advocate flatly that the District choose an alternative method of financing and building a cable system, the panel devoted considerable space to examining alternatives, citing the "negative experiences of other jurisdictions in the traditional franchising process."
The report estimates that under the pending council legislation, the city could have an operational cable system by September 1984.The document states that if the mayor decides to take the task force's recommendations and examine alternatives, a system could still be in place by November 1984.
The document was criticized immediately by Bob Johnson, president of District Cablevision, a group that is seeking a franchise to build and run the city's cable system.
"I am deeply disappointed that the task force had taken months to decide we need another study," Johnson said.
Johnson contended that any format in which the city retains control of the system would become an administrative headache.