Thursday, December 01, 2005

FCC Chair Calls for Channel Choice, 11/30/05

Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), told a forum of lawmakers and regulators Tuesday that not only should the cable and satellite industry clean up indecency on television, but also allow subscribers to choose what channels enter their home.

"Cable and satellite television offer some great family-oriented choices, but parents cannot subscribe to those channels alone," Martin said. "Rather, they are forced to buy the channels they do not want their families to view in order to obtain the family-friendly channels they desire.

"I think the industry needs to do more to address parents' concerns," he added. "You can always turn the television off and block the channels you don't want. But why should you have to?"

Critics of channel choice, also known as a la carte, say parental controls -- like the v-chip -- can block indecent programming and are already in place. Parents just need to use them.

"It's four clicks and a scroll on the remote," Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, told the Los Angeles Times.

Many religious broadcasters are also concerned about channel choice, since bundled programming opens the door for them to get into homes.

Martin said that while parental controls can help, the cable and satellite industry needs to address the concerns of the families they serve.

"Sixty-six percent of people believe there is too much violence on television and 58 percent believe there is too much cursing and sexual language," he said. "Seventy-five percent of people favored tighter enforcement of government rules on television content during hours when children are most likely to be watching."

Martin suggests that cable and satellite operators explore many alternatives such as offering family-friendly bundles or a la carte subscriptions. He said if the industry refuses, "basic indecency and profanity restrictions may be a viable alternative that should be considered."

Daniel Weiss, senior analyst for media and sexuality for Focus on the Family Action, said Martin has been a strong advocate of the family since he first became a commissioner.

"Chairman Martin clearly understands the dangers posed to children by highly sexualized media and he also recognizes that the industry has not been acting in the best interests of children," Weiss said. "The time has come for industry leaders to start working to find solutions to the problems they've created, rather than pushing the responsibility back to parents only.

"Chairman Martin is committed to working with the industry to find the best-possible solution for families," he said. "We hope the industry will have that same dedication."

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