04.17.2006 12:47 PM
Martin: Cable's family tiers may not be enough for FCC

FCC chairman Kevin Martin has turned his guns on pay television operators again, signaling that he's still concerned over indecent programming.

Martin warned cable operators last week at the NCTA cable show in Atlanta that “legitimate concerns” have been raised over the family-friendly program tiers the industry has proposed, the Associated Press reported.

The chairman questioned the practicality of the proposed tiers, specifically mentioning criticism from Sen. George Allen (R-VA), who said they should contain sports channels.

The cable operators proposed the G-rated tiers after Martin chided them over indecency issues last fall. He suggested at the time that offering programming on an a la carte basis might solve his problems.

However, the industry is firmly opposed to unbundling their packages of channels, contending it would hurt the cable business model by raising overall costs for consumers and putting smaller channels out of business. Instead, the operators prefer to offer standard bundles of channels, and programmers want their channels to be carried to as wide a potential audience as possible.

Martin emphasized that the FCC did not intend to regulate what kind of shows can be aired, but he said that “in general, having some kind of additional tiering options is a good idea,” the AP reported.

The FCC chairman said it was too early to reach any firm conclusions about the family-friendly offerings of cable companies since it would take time to see how they play out in the marketplace.

Several cable industry executives at the annual trade show affirmed their opposition to a la carte pricing.

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