A draft report issued by the Washington area's largest arts coalition ranks two of the eight firms vying for Montgomery County's lucrative cable television franchise far superior to their competitors in potential arts programming.
The seven-page report was written by a task force appointed by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, a group of 250 arts organizations and 600 artists. The task force cited 1st County Cable and the Montgomery Cable Communications, Inc./Times Mirror Cable Television as the two firms that offer the most money, as well as the best facilities, staff and services for arts programming.
Six other firms also are seeking the county's $100 million franchise. They are Viacom Cablevision of Md., Inc.; Tribune United of Montgomery County; Warner-Amex Cable Communications, Inc.; Tele-Mont Communications; Cablevision of Montgomery County; and Montgomery Community Cablevision, Inc.
Only one firm, Montgomery Community Cablevision Inc., did not respond to the task force. All others submitted written responses and all but Viacom, Cablevision and Tele-Mont were invited to give verbal presentations to the task force March 24.
The task force was critical of Viacom, Cablevision and Tele-Mont, saying that none offered sufficient arts programming.
The other five firms "clearly offered more persuasive" arts coverage, the report said. "1st County cable offers the strongest overall commitment for an arts/culture presence in Montgomery County," the task force concluded, adding that it gives a "strong endorsement" to the MCCI/Times Mirror application.
Both of the companies given favorable recommendation from the arts group are affiliated with much larger parent companies. The Times Mirror Co. runs the Los Angeles Times daily newspaper. 1st County Cable is operated by the Canada based Maclean Hunter Ltd. and is managed in part by Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Capitals and Bullets.
Peter Jablow, executive director of the Cultural Alliance, stressed that the report was not meant to analyze all of the firm's technological capabilities, but to examine how each company would "serve the cultural interests of the residents of Montgomery County."
The task force was composed of seven local cultural leaders, including Michael Sheehan, a former associate producer of the Folger Theatre, and Geraldine Otremba, deputy director of operations at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
None of the seven could qualify as experts in the cable field, Jablow said, but "We felt we had a number of people who were savvy enough to . . .evaluate without bias . . .what they were giving to the arts."
Sheehan noted that several of the cable firms offered local access studios, but that mobile equipment would be necessary to film most productions occurring at area performing arts centers.
"1st County and MCCI/Times Mirror had superior mobile equipment," Sheehan said. but he added that Warner-Amex had the best marketing plans for arts programs and was "best of all at pumping public attention" to the arts.
Jablow said he hopes the report will influence the final franchise award, because of the potential that cable television offers in publicizing local arts productions.