Montgomery County's Cable Television Review Panel, three communications experts charged with overseeing the county's selection of a cable franchise, gave final approval to that process yesterday, saying it was "well designed to meet the county's objectives of . . . selecting an excellent applicant."
The panel rejected the view of several community organizations that have said the public was not sufficiently involved in the year-long process and have demanded the record be reopened for further dialogue.
Panel members, selected last May by the county executive and approved by the County Council, were Ronald A. Siegal and Robert W. Ross, partners in law firms in the District of Columbia specializing in communications law, and telecommunications management specialist Jean A. Ross.
Their decision follows recommendations by an independent consultant, the county's cable project manager and a citizens advisory committee. County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist now is free to determine which of eight competing firms should get the 15-year contract, which is expected to produce between $500 million and $750 million in revenue over the life of the contract. Gilchrist is supposed to act within the next few weeks, and his decision must be approved by the council.
Among the aspects of the process scrutinized by the panel were whether it met standards set forth in the county's Request for Proposals and whether the most highly ranked cable firms deserved their top scores.
John Hansman, the cable project manager, recommended recently that the franchise be negotiated with Tribune-United, which along with Montgomery Cable Communications/Times Mirror and Viacom also received high marks from the independent consultant. The citizens panel added First County Cable.