Cable Industry Gets Family Friendly

By JENNIFER C. KERR Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Under pressure from the government, the nation's two largest cable companies plan to offer packages of family friendly channels to give parents a new way to shield children from sex, rough language and violence.

Industry leader Comcast Corp., No. 2 Time Warner Cable and several other companies will start offering "family choice" tiers, most likely by spring, said Kyle McSlarrow, head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the main cable trade group.

Details will vary by company, McSlarrow told the Senate Commerce Committee on Monday. He did not have an estimate on the cost, but said the tiers would be tied to digital cable packages, which cost more than a standard non-digital package.

The industry has come under increased scrutiny for raunchy programming, most recently from the head of the Federal Communications Commission. Chairman Kevin Martin urged cable executives at an indecency forum last month to give parents more tools to help navigate the hundreds of channels available to consumers.

Without endorsing a specific solution, Martin offered several suggestions, including family friendly tiers and so-called "a la carte" pricing, which would let customers pick and pay for only those channels they want.

Most cable executives have dismissed the idea of a la carte pricing, saying it would drive up costs and lead to the demise of channels that can't attract enough advertising dollars.


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