Charter Amendment D and Ordinance Proposition E on the Los Angeles city ballot would give the City Council authority to extend the length of cable-television franchises from the present 10 years up to a maximum of 15 years. Cable operators argue that they need the longer time for planning and in the interests of financial stability. We agree that the city should have the flexibility to grant a longer franchise, but hope that city government will pay closer attention than it has in the past to the conditions of all the franchises at renewal time next year.
For the first time, the city's new Telecommunications Department and Telecommunications Commission will be in place overseeing the process when 12 of the 14 franchises come up for renewal next year. If these ballot measures pass, and if the city is thus considering granting franchises that could last into the year 2002, it must look carefully at companies that promised services that they didn't deliver. South-Central Los Angeles, for example, remains without cable service, even though a franchise has been awarded.
Some companies promised the public access to local cable channels but also have not delivered or have delivered half-heartedly. A novel proposal that is making its way through the City Council would make franchise renewals conditional on industry agreement to join with the city in setting up regional centers where people could go to tape programs that could then be provided to all area cable companies and, through them, to viewers.