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GLENDALE : City, Cable TV Firm Sign New Agreement

After nearly three years of negotiations, Glendale city officials Tuesday approved a new franchise agreement with Sammons Communications, which they said will greatly improve cable TV service and give the city more police power over the company.

The 10-year franchise agreement calls for Sammons to begin construction within 90 days on a state-of-the-art rebuilding of the city’s cable system which, when completed, will expand the company’s channel capacity from 40 to 78.

It also includes various checks and balances to keep the cable system from becoming outdated and to enable the city to enforce the terms of the agreement, officials said.

Most of the city’s demands stemmed from public meetings and surveys indicating that Sammons’ subscribers are unhappy with the number of channels offered and the quality of service. A new fiber-optic system will increase the reliability of the signal and should allay concerns about picture quality, officials said.

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In fact, city officials said the only issue on which they were unable to reach an agreement with Sammons was the establishment of a public-access studio where local groups could tape programs for broadcast at little or no cost. City officials said the company would “not agree to do this under any terms.” Federal laws prohibit cities from requiring cable companies to operate such a studio.

“Just about every cable operator . . . has simply declined to provide (a public-access studio),” said Carl Pilnick, a city consultant who helped negotiate the agreement.

In communities that have such studios, the city government typically supports the operation with money from its general fund or from franchise fees collected from the cable company, he said.

But with the system upgrade, there will be room on the dial for up to five public-access channels, and city officials will be studying other ways to pay for a studio where local programs could be taped, said Steve Adams, an assistant in the city manager’s office.

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Highlights of the franchise agreement also include:

* Sammons will pay the city $200,000 over the 10-year period to pay for equipment that will be used in broadcasting local events, government meetings and other public-access uses.

* The city has the option of charging the company a fee of 2% of its gross revenues to pay for costs related to public-access programming. City officials have declined to charge the fee at this time because the company would probably pass it on to subscribers.

* Seniors will get a 10% discount on the basic monthly fee.

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* Sammons will keep a $500,000 letter of credit with the city, which will be reduced to $100,000 after the system upgrade has been completed.

Sammons also is negotiating a new franchise agreement with the city of Burbank.

That agreement, which is expected to be finalized in about one month, is virtually identical to the Glendale contract, officials said.


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