Salt Lake officials are considering a draft cable TV ordinance to improve service for customers and fatten city coffers without attempting to regulate the decency of cable programs.
"We don't want to do a David Wilkinson," said Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird, referring to the former state attorney general's ill-fated defense of the Cable TV Decency Act, struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.The ordinance, now in its draft stage but soon to be considered by the City Council, would attempt to address concerns of many customers complaining of long waits for service and longer waits for installation.
The ordinance would require the city's current cable franchise, TCI Cablevision of Utah Inc., to complete 95 percent of all repairs within 15 days. It would also extend service anywhere there is a sufficient number of subscribers or where customers are willing to pay the cost of an extension.
Additionally, the ordinance would raise the current franchise fee of 2 percent of TCI's gross revenues to 5 percent, increasing city revenue from cable contracts from $70,000 to $170,000.
However, the ordinance will not regulate the decency of material aired on cable TV.
City Attorney Roger Cutler, noting such regulation would pose First Amendment problems, said "I think the city would want to stay away from regulation other than (regulating) obscenity."
The city already has an ordinance on the books regulating obscene material other than that related to "bona fide educational, artistic scientific, medical or comparable research" purposes.
"We will regulate it within the law on obscenity," Cutler said, adding that cable service is a voluntary service. "People can subscribe or not subscribe."
The ordinance, Baird said, is the result of close negotiations with TCI. TCI spokesman Tom Bork said he would "reserve comment" until the ordinance was acted upon by the City Council.