FCC chairman concerned about cable's family offerings

The Associated Press reports Kevin Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday at the National Show in Atlanta that he has "legitimate concerns" over the family-friendly programming tiers cable operators have proposed over the last couple of months.

Martin's take on the family tier plan shouldn't come as a big surprise. For months he has been pushing for cable operators to offer programming a la carte, allowing families to pick and choose the channels they subscribe to.

Cable operators are vehemently opposed to the idea of offering single channels to consumers. Instead, they prefer continuing to offer packages of channels. But they have responded to decency concerns by proposing special G-rated program packages for families.

Each cable company has been unveiling its plans for a family tier over the past few months. While the packages vary among operators, Dan Isett, director of corporate and government affairs for the Parents Television Council complained that none of them offer sports or movie channels, apparently a concern shared by the FCC chairman.

"In certain respects, the cable operators have taken a step in right direction," he said. "But the family tiers they've proposed don't do anything to give consumers real choice in programming. The proposed packages mostly offer programs for kids without any sports or movie channels of any kind. It looks like a product doomed to fail because it will have very limited market viability."

The AP story stated that Martin said he didn't intend to regulate what kind of shows can be aired, but he indicated that "having some kind of additional tiering options is a good idea." He also said, according to the story, it's too early to make any conclusions about the proposed cable family packages, since it will take time for the market to decide if they are worthwhile.

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