TCI rejects proposal to add channels

January 10, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

The cable company that serves the Annapolis area has rejected a proposal by the city government to add more sports programming to the basic cable packages.

The Annapolis City Council voted unanimously last month to approve a new contract requiring TCI Cablevision to include in a basic cable package extras such as Home Team Sports and ESPN2, which feature local sailing shows and the Orioles, the Capitals and the Bullets.

TCI Cablevision had 30 days to review that proposal and rejected it Friday, the last day of the old contract.

TCI officials are backing off from earlier comments made by the company's lawyer indicating that the company would pull the plug on local cable to force the city to negotiate.

"That was posturing," William J. Forest, TCI's general manager, said yesterday. "This is a business we're running here, and we're going to continue to negotiate on all its fine points."

TCI has rejected several changes considered essential by the City Council, including:

* Making ESPN2 and Home Team Sports part of a basic cable package.

* Paying $100,000 to local cable access Channel 15.

* Authorizing a three-year lease instead of a 10-year lease.

* Waiving the charge when disconnecting higher-cost cable services.

TCI officials say they did not reject the contract outright, but several city officials said that refusing those four provisions was tantamount to rejecting the entire contract.

"It's in fact not a revision but a rejection," City Attorney Paul Goetzke said. The contract approved by the council is not negotiable, he said, and TCI will have to make concessions if it hopes to keep the franchise.

If TCI continues to operate without accepting the city's contract, its Annapolis cable franchise will be illegal, Mr. Goetzke said.

Other cable companies might try to fill the void if the city and TCI cannot reach an agreement. Jones Intercable Inc. has expressed an interest in serving the city and says it would include the two sports channels in its basic package. Jones has 46,000 subscribers in the county.

TCI has provided cable television to Annapolis since January 1992. Basic cable service costs Annapolis area subscribers $9.22 a month for 21 channels. Extended basic cable goes for $11.29 a month for 27 channels.

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