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Beverly Hills Delays Cable-TV Decision

February 19, 1987|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

For the third time in four weeks, the Beverly Hills City Council has failed to renew an agreement with Century Southwest Cable Television, and put off consideration of the cable franchise contract until March 3.

Before approving the delay, the council narrowly defeated a motion to reject Century's contract offer. Mayor Charlotte Spadaro and Councilman Robert Tanenbaum favored canceling the agreement, while Vice Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury Jr. and council members Donna Ellman and Maxwell Salter voted to continue negotiations.

The city has grounds to cancel the agreement because Century has failed to provide the financial guarantees the city requested last year to show that it could run the 9,000-subscriber system, said Charles Firestone, special counsel for the city of Beverly Hills. He added, however, that "none of these grounds are barriers" to an agreement with Century.

The Connecticut-based Century was part of a five-company consortium that bought cable giant Group W Cable Inc. from Westinghouse Electric Corp. last June for $2.1 billion.

Century recently abandoned attempts to renew franchises in El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale and Torrance after officials there feared it lacked the funds to operate the systems and would increase subscriber rates.

The firm has asked Beverly Hills to both renew the franchise agreement and transfer ownership of the system from Group W to Century, which has been operating the system temporarily while the city decides whether to make the transfer.

Some Beverly Hills officials say Century has failed to show it can both operate the system and pay for improvements while servicing the $390-million debt it incurred to buy Group W.

To renew the franchise, Beverly Hills wants Century to execute a $4.5-million letter of credit and give the city access to the franchise's assets if Century defaults on its loans. The proposed agreement also requires Century to provide at least $875,000 in communications equipment, build a public access channel and expand the 29-channel system to include up to 75 channels.

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