Deal Offers Little Cable Access

I have been reading and reviewing the signed May 16, 1998, "Cable and Television Franchise Agreement Between Loudoun County, Va., and Benchmark Acquisition Fund ILP," doing business as Cablevision of Loudoun for the last nine months, and have found its content to be disturbing, to say the least. For one thing, the contract [provides] very little in the way of public, educational and government access (PEG) to the people of Loudoun County.

There is no specific amount of funding provided in the contract to support PEG access, and nothing about facilities and equipment allocation for PEG use now or in the future, and no Internet, very little in the way of providing television production, no radio, and only shared channel capacity with leased access. This is all the people of Loudoun County will get in the way of PEG access.

Specifically, the contract states "costs to grantee for support of PEG use are not part of this franchise." We the people of Loudoun County are paying money each and every month to Cablevision of Loudoun for their right to do business. (Note your billing statement which spells out the words "5 percent franchise fee.") This 5 percent fee is a right of way Cablevision pays based on their gross revenue, which in turn is passed on to us, the consumers.

So what do we get in Loudoun County in return? Two shared channels, some old HI8 cameras and a TV studio that is mainly used and has first priority for commercial Channel 3. What a deal. Sorry to be so blunt, but as the former executive vice president of the board of directors of Fairfax Cable Access Corp. (FCAC), a nonprofit 501c3 set up to administer public television, radio and Internet in Fairfax County, I have first-hand working knowledge regarding PEG access.

In Fairfax County, residents get the following for public access: a specific fund of .8 percent of the cable company's gross revenue (about $1 million annually in funding), three television channels, two radio stations, Internet, three television production studios, four EFP camera outfits and a fully equipped mobile studio. Also, the entire facility is converting to digital technology. This is all provided to the people of Fairfax County, our next door neighbor. What a deal.

As a Loudoun County resident for the past five years, I urge all of you to contact your supervisor and demand PEG access similar and/or equal to that in Fairfax County. Remember, you have a right to an electronic and multimedia democracy. PEG access is the voice of our community.

TONY BARNEY

Sterling

Nice Sports Coverage, Except . . .

It is not often that girls sports receives a lot of attention in the media. It was very encouraging to see several articles over the past two weeks regarding the Pony National Tournament that took place in Sterling last week. Our local girls are receiving some well-deserved recognition!

However, I must question your choice in photographs used for the articles. My daughter Catie Trask was featured with a caption that read, "Catie Trask is unable to handle the throw at first base. . . ." Last week's photo shows a Loudoun Storm player where "the ball gets by."

As a spectator at this tournament, I watched many of these girls make some phenomenal plays. I saw double plays, I saw leaping catches, I saw picture perfect throws--I saw some awesome softball. It is unfortunate that instead of featuring photos that show the quality of the competition at this tournament . . . the few photos shown make it appear that these girls were bumbling routine plays.

As for Catie, who at first base has had 350 putouts with only eight errors this entire season, imagine her pride in a tournament well-played, only to have her photo in the newspaper for the very first time with the caption that was used. Please use care in your future choices of photographs and captions. These girls worked long and hard to qualify and be part of this tournament, they deserve lots of local recognition, and they deserve to be shown at their best moments!

MARTHA WILLIAMS

Sterling