[opendtv] News: Cable Ops Offer Family Tiers, Says McSlarrow

  • From: OpenDTV <opendtv@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 08:35:56 -0500


Cable Ops Offer Family Tiers, Says McSlarrow

By John Eggerton & John M. Higgins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 
12/12/2005 9:43:00 AM

It was a case of tiers to head off fears.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle 
McSlarrow Monday outlined preliminary plans for a number of cable 
operators voluntarily to start selling "family tiers." The move is an 
attempt to head off government-mandated tiering or a la carte cable 

In a Senate Commerce Committee indecency hearing Monday, McSlarrow 
said that operators representing over half the nation's subs are 
ready to offer some family-friendly tiers. They are: Comcast, Time 
Warner Cable, Advance-Newhouse, Brennan, Insight and Midcontinent.

He said there would be announcements from one or two of those in the 
next couple of weeks and that more operators were considering similar 
moves. He also said first-quarter 2006 is a target for launching some 
of these tiers, though he said there were still technical issues to 
be worked out.

Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said the sooner the better 
because Congress is under pressure from family groups to move 
legislation that would mandate tiering.

McSlarrow said the individual operators would define family-friendly 
differently, saying there would be anti-trust issues involved in 
coming to group decisions on those. 

He said he could not say exactly what the tiers would look like but 
that it would be a case of the mandatory basic service--broadcasters 
and public-access channels--rather than a choice of the traditional 
70 or 80 channels of expanded basic or a digital family tier, though 
he did not know what form that would take or how it would be priced. 

McSlarrow said he hoped that government-mandated tiers would now 
be off the table because the government would "get it wrong."

He also cautioned that the decisions by the individual operators 
"were not easy decisions, nor is this an easy place 
because marketplace negotiations have produced the greatest single 
engine for diversity or compelling content in the world. That should 
not be lightly trod upon."

It's not clear what networks might be included in the tiers, 
particularly whether the most popular ones -- Nickelodeon and Disney 
Channel -- will be sold in small tiers that could dramatically limit 
their reach.

At the same hearing, former Motion Picture Association of America 
President Jack Valenti said he had held three meetings with 
industry folks in the past two weeks (since an earlier indecency 
forum) and that the conclusion was to simplify the TV ratings and 
give parents more information about them. 

Valenti said he had been working on behalf of cable, broadcast and 
movies "trying to make the American parent understand that they 
have total control over all the visual programming into their home."

Valenti said the industries would take several steps to improve the 
TV ratings, including:

1. Trying to show a closer rapport between the TV and movie ratings 
(it wasn't clear how much that would mean changing the TV system to 
more closely reflect the movie ratings and how much educating about 
the extent of the current similarities it would involve).

2. Offer more information and educational presentations.

3. Reaching out to TV retailers and manufacturers so that, when a 
customer comes in to buy a TV set, they realize there is a V-chip in 

4. Make sure TV icons are readable and on screen for a sufficient 
length of time.

5. Reach out to community centers and churches to distribute 
information that shows parents they have control over programming.

6. Enlist the Ad Council's help in spreading the word.

Valenti said what government mustn't do is step in and try to tell 
people what to see and hear.

Commerce plans to hold another hearing Jan. 19, and Stevens said he 
hoped McSlarrow could by then be able to hold a demonstration of how 
the family-friendly tier would work.

Stevens thanked McSlarrow for taking what he called a "leadership 
position" on the issue, and Valenti for coming out of retirement to 
head up the ratings effort.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who has been stumping for voluntary family 
tiers, was also happy.

"I am pleased that some cable companies may respond to consumer 
demand and begin to voluntarily offer family tiers," he said in a 
statement. "For several years, I have been urging the cable and 
satellite industry to give parents additional tools to help them 
address the increasing amount of coarse programming on television. 
Offering a family-friendly package has always been one of the options 
I supported.

"I look forward to hearing more about the details of their plans and 
hope that it will provide parents with real options to address 
parents' legitimate concerns with having to purchase programming that 
they believe is unsuitable for their children."
You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways:

- Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at 

- By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word 
unsubscribe in the subject line.

Other related posts:

  • » [opendtv] News: Cable Ops Offer Family Tiers, Says McSlarrow