The D.C. Council yesterday amended its proposed cable television legislation to set goals, but not numerical quotas, for minority hiring by companies bidding for cable franchises in the city.
The affirmative action compromise calls for competing companies to submit detailed plans for minority hiring. It sets a goal of 70 percent minority employment in the companies within two years, and it suggests that cable companies require 51 percent of their employes to live within the District.
The council had earlier rejected attempts to require companies to meet both the minority hiring and residency standards.
In other action yesterday the council, despite a last-minute veto threat from Mayor Marion Barry, gave initial approval to a bill that would give it the right to review proposed sales of city land by the Redevelopment Land Agency.
Affirmative action has been a sensitive issue throughout the consideration of the cable legislation, because the development of cable here has been seen as one of the last chances for blacks and other minorities to be included in the early stages of a major technological industry.
Council Member Wilhelmina Rolark, who had attempted unsuccessfully to impose the numerical affirmative action standards, offered yesterday's compromise proposal. It passed with little debate, although the council members did have a lively exchange over the issue of regulating obscene programming on cable channels.
Council Member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) caused an uproar in the chamber when she said she wanted the commission to define obscenity and prohibit cable companies from broadcasting it. "There's absolutely nothing in the bill to give parents forewarning," Winter said.
However, she withdrew her amendment after several critical comments, including one from Wilson, who said: "Some of us would like to see whatever America has to offer. The evening news can be offensive . . . I don't understand why sex is always offensive. I think it's good for you."
The Rev. Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large), a Baptist minister, said he wished the council could curb obscenity, but "we have to be careful about what we legislate."
Adult movie programming, primarily for late-night viewing, is a significant attraction offered by cable companies in other areas of the country.
The council did adopt an amendment from Rolark that would require cable companies operating in the District to provide each subscriber with a "lockbox" that could be used to block out channels that might contain X-rated or R-rated materials.
On a second affirmative action issue, the council rejected an effort by Council Member David A. Clarke to amend the city's minority contracting law by attaching a rider to the cable bill.
Clarke sought to include Oriental Americans and all Americans of Spanish descent--both groups are treated as minorities in the cable bill--in the existing contract law that sets aside 25 percent of city contracts for special bidding by minorities.
Council Member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), angered by the council's refusal to pass Clarke's amendment, called the action "racist" and, in protest, cast the only vote against the cable bill.
The bill, scheduled for a final vote April 27, provides for a 28-member commission, to be appointed by the council and the mayor, to guide the city in selecting the cable companies that would operate here.
Barry has previously objected to the legislation on the grounds that it gives the council too much power in naming commission members and awarding cable franchises. The mayor believes he should have the power to choose which companies should provide cable service here, but he has not indicated whether he will veto the cable legislation.
Actual cable service is not expected to begin until at least two years after cable legislation is finally passed.
The bill giving the council the right to review proposed sales of city land by the RLA was introduced by Council Member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), who said the council has a right to know what land the city is selling.
Just minutes before yesterday's 10 a.m. session, aides to Barry circulated a letter from him in which he said the legislation "could in some instances seriously hamper the RLA's ability to take advantage of development" and said he intends "to disapprove this proposed legislation . . . ."
Jarvis, chairman of the housing and community development committee, said Barry's letter was "laughable" and "full of inaccuracies." She said Barry has been silent on the issue for weeks.
Jarvis said the council "pulled back" from an initial proposal which would have allowed it, rather than the RLA, to make the final decision to sell city property. The current bill gives the council the right to review RLA proposals but does not specify what action the council can take to modify them.