West Hollywood Agrees to Retain Cable Franchise

Times Staff Writer

The West Hollywood City Council on Tuesday agreed to allow Century Communications to continue serving as the city's cable television company.

In response to complaints from subscribers about poor reception and service, the council had threatened to revoke the franchise last year.

The City Council and Century reached an agreement Tuesday night in a 12-page memorandum of understanding signed by both parties. The agreement provides for a six-month review period, after which the council will reevaluate the company's performance.

According to the agreement, Century must: notify West Hollywood subscribers that it is providing A-B switches at cost; inform subscribers that a toll-free number is available for complaints or service; reimburse subscribers for service interruption, and have a company representative attend at least one City Council meeting per month.

New Service Offered

A-B switches allow subscribers to watch one channel and record off another, a service previously not available from Century.

The council also reported that since the Santa Monica-based company took over the franchise in January, 1987, subscribers had complained about poor picture quality, interruptions in programming and long waits to speak with Century employees.

City reports show that complaints about Century have decreased from 75 during the week of Sept. 5 to none the week of Nov. 21. Complaints ranged from rude service crews to rate increases.

Century provides service to 150,000 subscribers in the Los Angeles area, 12,000 in West Hollywood. According to industry sources, the West Hollywood contract is reportedly worth $36 million to $40 million, but Century officials would not confirm this.

Ian Tanza, the city's arts administrator for cable television, said that many West Hollywood television viewers subscribe to cable because of poor reception caused by the number of high buildings and other obstacles.

Century established an office on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood last November, which the company said has helped relations with city officials. "Ever since we opened the West Hollywood office our goal was to stress quality and customer service," said Louise Anlyan, Century general manager.

"The partnership between Century and West Hollywood has never been stronger," said William J. Rosendahl, vice president of corporate affairs for Century. "We are committed to quality service and look forward to a strong relationship with the city for a long time."

'Under the Gun'

But Councilman Paul Koretz expressed reservations about the agreement. "They were a relatively sleazy company, but they have brought in good people and improved service," Koretz said. He and other members of the council said the cable company is still "under the gun" to provide good service under the agreement, even after the six-month review period.

Rosendahl said he is confident Century can meet the city's expectations and will retain the franchise after the six-month period. "Century is the first cable television company to reinvest into the infrastructure of its operation," he said. Century rewired many houses and apartment complexes to improve reception.

"I feel we've put very tough standards on Century," Tanza said. "They exceed (Federal Communications Commission) standards, and national standards." Tanza added he is happy with the agreement and expects a good relationship between the city and Century.

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