FOR THOSE OF YOU around the Beltway who may already be enjoying the many-flavored in-home offerings of multi-channel cable television, we interrupt your programming for this unspecial report from downtown D.C. on the progress of the cable revolution in the city: a high-level District government task force studying cable television has, after a long, long pause for station identification, just recommened that the government set up another group to study the subject some more. Now back to your regular programming, presumably indefinitely. . .
Granted, not all is clear on the screens of the suburbs; for example, Arlington's system is having its growing pains, with owners of the franchise claiming they're in serious financial difficulty unless they can have an iron-clad extension of their operations through 1995 instead of 1991, as approved by the Arlington County Board. And Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George's counties are still holding auditions for would-be operators in their jurisdictions. But the city isn't even close to that stage.
The group that has taken the preliminary peek for city hall did suggest that whatever may be done include provisions that the local government retain at least a peice of the cable action rater than limit itself simply to granting a franchise to a private operator. But even this suggestion should be subject to considerable challenge, given the city government's already full bureaucratic plate and nearly empty coffers. Do taxpayers really want government channels?
There is legislation now before the District council to set up a cable television office and start the process of finding the best operators. That search no doubt will, and should, give consideration to local minority interests, sound financial planning and preferably a system tht can serve the entire city rather than parts of it.
There is obvious danger in a made rush to light up the cable screens too swiftly, as many sorry jurisdictions around the county can attest. But in the interests of its residents, the revenues that a good system can produce and the services that a full cable system can provide, the city government should be moving seriously -- and much faster than it has so far.