IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lawmaker wants kid-friendly cable tiers

Alaska Republican also wants to boost indecency fines
/ Source: Reuters

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said Friday that subscription TV services should offer packages of child-friendly channels free of any material that could be deemed indecent.

“We ought to find some way to say here is a block of channels ... that is clear of the stuff that you don’t want your children to see,” Stevens told reporters. “We’re looking to create tiers or create a system like the movie business.”

Movies in the United States carry industry-governed ratings that are designed to prevent young children from attending films with adult content, like sex and extensive violence.

Stevens also said he planned to move a bill soon to boost fines for violators of broadcast decency standards and indicated he would attempt to expand which companies fall under the standards.

The Alaska Republican has said he plans to push to require cable and satellite services to adhere to the same decency standards as broadcasters, limiting sexually explicit material and extensive profanity to late night hours when children are less likely to be watching or listening.

“It will be as soon as we can bring it (fines legislation) about, and yes I intend to try and level the playing field” between broadcasters and subscription services, he told reporters.

The Senate is weighing legislation to hike fines to as much as $325,000 per violation up to $3 million for continuing incidents. The U.S. House has already passed a bill to hike fines to $500,000 per violation with no maximum.

Radio shock jock Howard Stern plans to move to satellite radio to avoid decency limitations.

The House did not address extending decency standards to cable and satellite, and House Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Barton has said he would prefer to finish the fines bill first before addressing cable and satellite services.

The cable industry has argued that previous court decisions prevent the government from imposing decency limits on subscription services because consumers order them and such limits would infringe free speech rights.

Cable operators offer customers the ability to block channels they do not want to receive, and the head of the industry’s lobbying organization said the group was mounting an education campaign to help lawmakers understand available choices.

“We’re going to talk and educate members of Congress,” Kyle McSlarrow, head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told reporters. He said Stevens was expected to attend the industry’s convention next month.