Council president pulled the plug


March 22, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

Monday night's meeting of the Baltimore City Council was pretty lively, with a racially charged name-calling debate over proposed redistricting that included council member Sheila Dixon waving a shoe at white colleagues and asserting, "You've been running things for the last 20 years. Now the shoe is on the other foot. See how you like it."

However, home viewers of the session on cable television missed much of the good stuff, for Council President Mary Pat Clarke ordered the TV sound off when things began heating up.

"Technically by the by-laws she cannot do that," says Bill Zervas, chief of media services for the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communications, which operates Channel 44 of the city's United Artist Cable system.

Since 1988, the local-access channel has been required under the council's own rules to carry council sessions "gavel to gavel, live and unedited," says Zervas. About 15 to 20 cable subscribers called the mayor's office this week to complain about the squelched telecast.

But Clarke says she called an immediate recess when the shouting began, which included both council members and citizens in the audience. And when the council is in recess, she says, the cable telecast may be suspended, too. (Customarily, a fixed camera focuses on an empty chair while music is played.)

"If I have chaos in the chamber, I'm going to recess. I had to get that council back under control," says Clarke, adding jocularly, "I didn't have time to call up the violins."

She says she had no intent to censor a public meeting and asserts, "I'll stand by my judgment."

THE COSBY CLOUT -- As a measure of the impact "The Cosby Show" continues to have on television, WNUV-Channel 54 announced this week with considerable excitement that it has purchased the rights to air reruns of the show beginning in September 1993.

Until then, the show will continue to run on WJZ-Channel 13, which is in its third year of showing the "Cosby" repeats (at 5 p.m. weekdays).

"I see 'Cosby' as what 'M*A*S*H' is in most markets, a show that can play 15 years in syndication and be a leader in its time period," says Bruce Binenfeld, Channel 54's program director.

He says the show is likely to be slotted in the afternoon, probably in company with "A Different World," the spinoff NBC series for which WNUV has also purchased syndication rights. That show will begin airing in repeats this coming fall.

"'The Cosby Show' has been real, real good to us," says Mike Easterling, Channel 13 program director. But he said that by fall 1993 it will have run on the station for five years, "and we felt that's a long time for any television show."

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