City Sets 1 1/2-Year Moratorium On Cable Television Licenses

The Cambridge City Council last night placed a 12-month moratorium on entertaining applications for cable television franchises in the city while also authorizing a Community Advisory Committee on Cable Television.

Councillor Saundra Graham, who extended the original motion for a moratorium from 12 to 18 months by amendment, said that the time was needed for the public to educate itself on cable television.

"There are still no answers from the top on down to the questions of privacy and surveillance," Graham said. "I don't want to take the risk of having our people surveiled because big business wants cable television."

Councillor Henry F. Owens III, who introduced the original moratorium proposal, said that it would act as a deterrent to potential applicants for franchises during that period. The moratorium is not binding since a majority of the councillors can rescind it at any time, according to the city clerk.

Graham and representatives of People Against National Identity Cards (PANIC) cited the possible use of a two-way cable system for surveillance of viewers. They criticized a recent MIT proposal to install an experimental cable television system in the Washington Elms housing project.


Members of PANIC also chided Councillor Robert Moncrieff, chairman of the Council's subcommittee on cable television, for not issuing an official report on the city's recent hearings on the issue.

Councillor Daniel Clinton, who voted against the moratorium, said that cable television might generate revenue for the city and that no restrictions should be set "when people still don't know whether this thing is good or bad."