D.C. City Council chairman Arrington Dixon pledged yesterday that the Council will pass legislation action by the end of the year that will permit establishment of the long-delayed cable TV franchise.
A bill, however, would be only the first step in a lengthy process, that would not bring cable TV to the District until 1984 at the earliest. But Dixon said it was particularly important that the city move now to prevent the pressures of next year's election from possibly influencing the process.
"I'm going to make this one of my priorities," Dixon said yesterday at a briefing for reporters. "I think we should move ahead."
Dixon's comments came minutes after a coalition of community groups staged a press conference outside the District Building chiding the city government for not moving "immediately" to adopt a cable ordinance.
"There is a feeling that cable isn't an important issue and it somehow doesn't matter to residents of this city," said Kay Pierson, spokesman for a group called the D.C. Cable Coalition. "We are here to correct that perception. Cable not only has potential in community development, cultural enrichment and institutional communications. It could also bring jobs, industry and much needed revenue to the District."
While public pressure has mounted, a cable ordinance has been stalled for more than two years in the council's Public Service and Consumer Affairs Committee, headed by Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8). A task force appointed by Mayor Marion Barry recently recommended that the city explore the possibility of creating a quasi-public cable system.
Rolark said she wanted to await the outcome of a proposed deregulation bill now before the U.S. Senate before taking any action. By stripping localities of their authority to regulate cable rates charged consumers, the Senate bill could block the city from installing such a community-owned system.
Dixon said yesterday, however, that he thinks the city should proceed anyway. He said that because of the expense involved in wiring the city he is increasingly doubtful as to "whether a cable system should be owned by the city government."