More than 200 citizens, including 51 speakers, appeared at a public hearing on the Montgomery County cable television process last night for their only chance to influence the award of the county's lucrative cable franchise.
The hearing was the fourth and last; at the first three, held last week, each of the eight firms competing for the franchise presented their cases before the county cable television project manager and the county's 29-member citizen advisory committee.
Last night's speakers represented a wide range of viewpoints and groups, from the Silver Spring Group Ministry to the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
David Duarte, president of Image of Maryland, one of six Hispanic groups represented at the hearing, said that the county's Hispanic community should be given a chance to invest in the winning franchise and that Spanish programming would "fill a significant void."
Dr. Dean W. Gibson, president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, said a report by the county's cable television consultant, Carl Pilnick, was flawed by numerous errors. Gibson asked the county to make certain that the franchise is built to the specifications promised by the winning firm.
In a recent report, Pilnick ranked the firms in this order: Tribune-United Cable of Montgomery County, Montgomery Cable Communications Inc./Times Mirror Cable Television of Maryland, Tele-Mont Communications, Viacom Cablevision of Maryland Inc., First County Cable, Warner Amex Cable Communications Co., Cablevision of Montgomery County and Montgomery Community Cablevision Inc.
Speaker Marlys Becker, vice president of the Montgomery Commission for Women, was critical of the firms for taking private polls that showed a high interest in cable programs for women, and then, she claimed, ignoring them. "Unfortunately, none of their proposals reflect this high interest," Becker said.
Earlier in the day, Roscoe Nix, president of the county's NAACP chapter, said his group singled out First County Cable, Tele-Mont, and MCCI/Times Mirror as the firms offering the best equity, employment, training and programming for county minorities.