Cable agrees to family tier, but questions remain

The nation’s major cable companies now say they will introduce packages of family friendly television programs as early as the first quarter of next year. The action came only days after FCC Chairman Kevin Martin threatened to seek legal authority over pay television program content.

Kyle McSlarrow, the head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which represents cable companies and programmers, told Congress last week that at least six cable companies, including Comcast and Time Warner Cable, were developing packages of channels aimed at families wanting to shield children from provocative topics.

The cable industry initiative is the latest effort to head off pending legislation that might obligate them to block certain programming or sell channels to consumers on an à la carte basis, the New York Times reported.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, at a confirmation hearing on his re-nomination, said it’s too early to say legislation is no longer needed.

By week’s end, Time Warner announced specifics of its family package, which includes 15 channels of cartoons as well as news and educational shows.

Time Warner’s family tier includes Boomerang, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, CNN Headline News, The Science Channel, Discovery Kids, Disney Channel, DIY Network, FIT-TV, Food Network, HGTV, La Familia, Nick Games & Sports, The Weather Channel and Toon Disney.

The service will cost about $33 a month plus taxes, $12.99 for the family tier, plus $12 for basic cable service. A set-top box is needed to receive digital channels and will cost an additional $8 a month.

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