Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science


Within the last decade state-of-the-art cable television has gone from an unsuccessful, premature proposal in Virginia, to operative franchises in several jurisdictions , including Richm::m.d, Henrico, Chesterfield, Arlington, and Alexandria. There are also a number of franchises which have been in operation for many years and which are intended largely for reception improvement with sone minimal extra services, such as those in Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights. It is proposed here to raise significant issues which could have been addressed by Virginia state and local government as to the regulation of this rapid growth of cable television in the Cormnnwealth, especially given the trend toward deregulation at the Federal level which might leave regulatory responsibility with the state and localities. Examples from the governmental response to that growth will be used to dem:mstrate the need for a comprehensive study of regulatory alternatives. They will also show that to a significant extent, Virginia has already cormrl.tted itself to a regulatory scheire which apparently is to regulate in the public interest, but which, in fact, neither has the resources nor the authority to do so. Further, it will be apparent that this decision has been made largely by default. The Virginia General Assembly has failed to act, either through ignorance of the potential of the medium, or a reluctance to regulate or delegate authority to localities to do so. Only the barest regulatory framework for local governmental :initiative has been promulgated, and only a minimal corrmit:rrent has been to giving localities the resources necessary to exercise that responsibility. The Conm:mwealth consequently finds itself with a cable regulatory scheme which is neither fully relevant to the characteristics of the iredium or capable of fostering the public interest. This study will involve necessarily a description of some of the major aspects of the legal and political environment within which governments cooperated in, reacted to, or :initiated this process. Further, the extent to which certain feasible and legal options were considered in an effort to create a sophisticated system reflective of community needs will be noted, as will the legal problems of the largely irrelevant process of local governmental franchis:ing. It will be necessary to address briefly certain other points, such as the technical possibilities of cable television at this time and its likely future development, comparison of the systems offered and chosen in the recent Virginia experience with the state-of-the-art, the economic factors limiting the feasibility of particular systems attractive to multiple system operators (MSO's), and the social and political implications of choices :in the franchising and regulatory process.