Members of the county NAACP chapter want BET.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has gathered a petition signed by about 400 Harford residents to urge Comcast Cablevision of Maryland to air BET, Black Entertainment Television, said Joseph Bond,a Bel Air area resident and the chapter president.
Curt Pendleton, a spokesman for Comcast of Harford County, said the group may have to wait until next year before the cable company can provide BET.
The NAACP, which has about 700 members in its Harford chapter, will meet with representatives from Comcast and county government on Jan. 9 to discuss the issue, Bond said.
Comcast is thelarger of two franchise cable companies that operate in the county. The other, Clearview CATV Inc., serves the northern part of the county and has not been approached by the NAACP about airing BET. Comcast currently does not broadcast any special-interest programs aimed at specific racial, religious or cultural groups.
BET, based in Washington, D.C., has about 31.9 million viewers nationwide, including portions of the Baltimore region, according to the company. BET's 24-hour-a-day programming includes news, sports coverage, talk shows, situation comedies and music videos.
"(The petitioners) would like to view that," Bond said. "That's the bottom line."
Comcast will consider adding BET to its services next year when the company finishes a system-wide expansion that will enable it to add more channels, said Pendleton.
The company provides 35 channels for its 36,000 customers in the county. When the expansion is finished, by no later than June, Comcast will be able to provide 62 channels, Pendleton said.
BET is one of several networks that Comcast will consider adding when the expansion is finished, Pendleton said. He noted that the company regularly receives requests for religious, science fiction and Spanishlanguage programming.
In addition, Comcast is asking its customers to evaluate cable services and state what changes they would like in those services, Pendleton said.
"We are listening to (the NAACP's) needs as well as the needs of other special-interests groups," Pendleton said. "We're trying to take a look at every avenue."
If Comcast does not provide full-time BET programming as part of its basic cable service, NAACP members will ask the cable company to make the network available on a part-time or pay-per-view basis, Bond said.
Pendleton said Comcast would consider providing BET on a part-time basis, which would allow the network to air programs at certain hours of the day while other programs are provided for the rest of the day on the same channel.
He noted, however, that it may not be possiblefor Comcast to offer BET for pay-per-view because that would requirea special contract between the network and the cable company.
Members of the NAACP chapter feel frustrated because Comcast would not tell them whether the programming will be available, Bond said.
ButPendleton said Comcast can't give them a definite answer until the company determines how much BET will cost to provide and what other new programming is added.
The NAACP began circulating copies of a petition throughout the county to garner support for BET programming earlier this year, Bond said. The group planned to send the petition toComcast headquarters in Philadelphia, but has delayed sending the petition until the outcome of next month's meeting.