Martin Says Family-Friendly Tiers Not Lily-White Enough

from the warning-this-post-features-adult-content-and-strong-language dept

The FCC did a pretty remarkable turnaround last year on a la carte pricing of cable channels, suddenly deciding that it really wouldn't be prohibitively expensive for consumers. As we expected, the talk about a la carte has been little more than a tool with which to push cable operators to offer more "family-friendly" programming options, and it's worked. But apparently now FCC boss Kevin Martin thinks the so-called family tiers don't go far enough. While we pointed out several problems inherent in a cable company trying to determine a package of universally non-offensive programming -- while managing to make it attractive to customers -- implementing a la carte just to satisfy the puritans among us isn't the answer. Plenty of options exist to protect people's easily offended sensibilities, whether it's the V-Chip or other parental controls, or the ridiculously radical ideas of parents either paying more attention to what their kids watch, or -- gasp -- getting rid of the cable or TV altogether, if it's so offensive. Mixing morality with telecommunications regulation is a dangerous game, with the almost certain outcome of more inefficient marketplace, rather than encouraging competition, improving service and lowering prices.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Comboman, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:41am

    Shed no tiers?

    I don't buy the "censorship" argument as the cause for un-tiering cable. The same thing is happening in Canada (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060228.gtdigital28/BNStory/Technology/) where the "family friendly" lobby is not a consideration at all. The real reason is competition from satellite, telcos and the internet where customer can now buy individual channels and/or episodes. Cable companies must compete or become irrelevant.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:43am

    No Subject Given

    Plenty of options exist to protect people's easily offended sensibilities, whether it's the V-Chip or other parental controls, or the ridiculously radical ideas of parents either paying more attention to what their kids watch,
    Oh, sure. I've got to block things that I'm forced to pay for, but don't want in the first place.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Darrin Freeman, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:03pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    No, if you don't want it, don't pay for it. As he said in the original post, get rid of cable if you don't like it.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 12:15pm

    Mulsim

    Next we'll have a muslim tier for the secular who don't want to see representations of women, even in cartoons.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Pope Ratzo, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Mulsim

    Or a Wingnut tier for people afraid of seeing liberal opinions or (gasp) criticism of Republicans.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:36pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    So because the cable company has a effective monopoly, I'll just have to buy what they tell me to or get nothing?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    emichan, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:38pm

    No Subject Given

    I've never understood what decency activists are complaining about, unless they're lying when they claim to be concerned solely about what children have access to. There ARE lots of ways for parents to protect their children from content they don't want the kids to see. Ratings, for one, and of course, the now ubiquitous v-chips, as well as channel lock-out, and of course, gasp, no cable/TV. I had plenty of friends when I was growing up who didn't have cable, or whose parents didn't allow them to watch anything but the educational channels, and this was before the v-chip/ratings/etc. Unfortunately, I think most ardent decency activists are NOT only concerned with children being exposed to inappropriate content. I think many of them are concerned with ADULTS being exposed to certain kinds of content. It is a way to control people, to control modes of thought and expression that do not agree with their own. But isn't being an adult all about making your own decisions, and being responsible for the consequences? These activists are just trying to make themselves feel important by injecting their views into everyone else's living rooms.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 1:52pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Allowing people to buy only what they want to watch is controlling *you*? Or, are you afraid that not enough people will buy SpikeTV to allow it to continue and you won't have anything to watch?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Mulsim

    I want the Flying Spaghetti Monster package, where that is the only diety recognized. If you really want TV that is offensive, turn it off and take it to a e-recyling center. Personally, I find some offensive shows entertaining, such as Boondocks. I loved the MLK episode!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    googly_eyes, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 2:53pm

    a wide swath

    Carlo,

    You seem to take a pretty determined swipe at those of us who would like ala cart programming, ignoring some basic facts:

    1) Not everyone has a TV with V-CHIP. I don't and I don't intend to buy a new TV soon. Why the heck should I - the one I have works just fine, thank you very much.

    2) Not everyone enjoys paying $45+ for a host of content that they never watch. I have no use for ESPN (1 2 or 3 or 4 or 5), Cartoon Network, VH1, MTV, or the 12 home shopping network channels. I simply feel that it is a form of extortion to demand that I pay for something I never use.

    3) Are you so full of free time that you can watch what your kids are doing 24x7? Do your kids NEVER go against what they are told? What about the teenagers in your house? Are they not the type that figures out how to reset passwords, or bypass content filters? What about single parents who can't possibly control what their children are doing when they are at work?

    4) The cable company is getting $0 out of me right now. Wouldn't they like to be able to sell me *SOMETHING* rather than nothing? And no, I will not subscribe to their "Family Programming" tier, simply because I, not they, need to determine what is right for my family.

    The technology exists; let the market decide if it will work. They are scared to offer this because of the sheer fact that they know their pricing structure is bloated, over valued, and there are few options for consumers. The minute some consumers are given a choice, the bubble will pop. HOWEVER, I bet that they will pick up a whole host of other subscribers who, like me, would decide that I could do with 5 - 10 channels that I am willing to pay for.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 6:12pm

    No Subject Given

    My Cable Company's main facility is located right next to Spearmint Rhino (the Strip Club that they share the parking lot with), although the company does not provide the Playboy subscription channel because they choose to be "Family Friendly".

    Thanks Adelphia, for insisting that for married men, strip clubs are much healthier than just watching it on television - at least in the eyes of the "Family Friendly" groups (just not wives).

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Emre, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 10:18pm

    I don't want all this stuff on my internet either

    So in this case, if you want tiered service from cable and satelite, can I please get internet service in which I don't have to look through 1000 S&M sites because I looked up the word punishment to try to find a parenting site??? And I wanna pay less for it since I'm not using that part of the service... this is ridiculous... besides you wanted tv on your own terms... it's call OnDemand service, Comcast pioneered this and soon everyone followed... beside... Programming choice should be left to parents and not the FCC or Big cable... Teach your kids some freaking morals and proper ideals... and quit buying them video games not intended for them... parents that sign up for the family tier and then turn around and buy gran theft auto for their kid are just plain ideots... learn how to parent befor you get pregnant...

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Scooby Wilson, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:25pm

    Charge those who do not want "it".

    ATTENTION ALL PARENTS:
    Just because you don't want your kids watching a certain television program, doesn't mean that everyone else should also not watch that program.

    ATTENTION ALL CABLE/SATELLITE PROVIDERS:
    Put up ALL the channels you have available and implement a means at your customer's viewing location to disable these channels if they choose to do so.

    Subscribers with boxes to get this option built into that box's software.

    Basic/no box subscribers may call your service centers to have "said person's" account deny access to "said person's" request-to-block channels.

    If the telephone companies can block certain telephone numbers from being dialed (976, 900...etc), then what is stopping cable television providers from doing the same thing... and if you want to charge an extra $1 for each blocked channel, let the people who are offended pay that extra $1... but please don't discipline those of us who could care less if something offensive flashes on out screen while channel-surfing your wonderful channel lineups.

    ...

    bottom line; Let those who "don't want to have", pay for the channels they psychotically freak-out about having available to them... And let the rest of the community be proud of the huge lineup of channels they do have. And in return, you'll get less complaints asking for additional channels to be added to your lineup.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 11:05am

    Faultless Parents?

    What, do you want The State to raise your kid for you??

    "parents either paying more attention to what their kids watch"
    Oh, sure. I've got to block things that I'm forced to pay for, but don't want in the first place.

    There are always going to be people that are offended by one thing or another, regardless of what programming is available. Parents have the V-chip, the PIN channel-block method, and the ability to GROUND THE KID FROM THE TV.

    The rest of society should not be limited by a parent's lack of disciplinary control over the their own children. When I was growing up [I'm in my late 20's now] if your parent's did want you to be able to watch something, guess what??
    They told you not to, and if you got caught the plug got pulled. Did you forget that your television has a plug?

    A George Carlin quote sums this issue up perfectly (he was referring to radio media)

    "Well pardon me Senator, but did you forget that there are two knobs on your radio? One changes the station and the the other one turns it off...
    of course I'm sure you wouldn't be comfortable with anything that has two KNOBS on it..."


     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Professor HighBrow, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 11:06am

    Faultless Parents?

    oops. forgot to inlude my name above...4

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 11:42am

    Re: No Subject Given

    "I've got to block things that I'm forced to pay for, but don't want in the first place."

    Remember, that you ordered a COMPLETE PACKAGE of channels, not just "one from this category" and "another from that category".

    You are the person who wants to be special by excluding certain channels from your personal line-up. So yes, yes I do believe that you should need to pay more for the ability to do that.

    There are people who don't enjoy certain channels such as Home Shopping Network, UPN, Women's Network, Hallmark Channel, Disney....etc. But instead of bitching about having to pay for these channels, we either don't program then into our cable box's channel listings or just surf right past them when channel surfing... no complaints about that.

    learn to accept that not everyone will agree with your way of thinking - and do please remember that your way of thinking isn't the only way of thinking.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Michal, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 12:00pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    >> Remember, that you ordered a COMPLETE PACKAGE of channels, not just "one from this category" and "another from that category".

    yeah, I didn't have a choice in the matter.

    >> learn to accept that not everyone will agree with your way of thinking - and do please remember that your way of thinking isn't the only way of thinking.

    yeah, no shit, they should get their channels and I should get mine.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Professor HighBrow, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 3:14pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    >> Remember, that you ordered a COMPLETE PACKAGE of channels, not just "one from this category" and "another from that category".

    yeah, I didn't have a choice in the matter.

    >> learn to accept that not everyone will agree with your way of thinking - and do please remember that your way of thinking isn't the only way of thinking.

    yeah, no shit, they should get their channels and I should get mine.


    Well Sire, I suppose the public should have to pay for a lead shield for you to place around your home so that no OFFENSIVE content on the electromagnetic spectrum can reach your home.

    I'm not argueing that tiered cable sucks, because it does; however the point is:

    No one is FORCING the content upon you.
    You have "opted-in" and thereby have an assumed responsibility to decide what you and your family watch and don't watch.

    If someone sent your kid a Hustler magazine through the mail, it would be their fault.
    If you ordered one, then it is your responsibility if your kid finds it.

    Clear enough logic for the "Censor Inside You?"

    --Professor HighBrow

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    CableGuy, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 7:50pm

    No Subject Given

    I hope all you a la carte people know that you will pay more than those few channels are worth, probably close to what is paid for tiered programming. It is expensive for the filters to block certain channels on non-converter cable, or you could pay a bit more for the converter that allows the channels to be blocked without the extra equipment(which is the likely way as there is not enough room to put 20 or 30 filters at every house). You will most likely pay more towards the cable companies cost of the channels you want, as they will not be making the money for the bulk channels that are provided.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    mark, Mar 4th, 2006 @ 11:51pm

    unwanted content

    Its very simple: If there is a channel or twenty among the hundreds you're forced to take with the package that DOES have what you want, you lock out those offensive channels. Its called parental control, even if you're the one thats offended and don't have kids. It's worked for years just fine. Of course, if you're really angry at the cable provider, do without, listen to the radio, or read. I'm just pessimistic enough to think if they set cable up with a price per channel scheme, after all is said and done, I'll be paying as much or more than I did before, with fewer potential alternatives for distraction from my miserable existance. (Not really...I only watch the History Channel anyway)

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 4:33am

    Re: unwanted content

    please don't cut back the selection of channels in which is given to my TiVo for recording programs it thinks I may like. I have no clue what time or channel certain programs air on/at - and I like it this way because it makes things less complicated after a difficult day of work.

    I tell the TiVo what programs I like and it does the rest - there should never be a need for me to know what channel number (or name for that matter) that said program airs on.

    BTW, the TiVo also sometimes records programs for me that I don't like - so rather than complaining to "uh huh uh company", I don't watch those shows... and a moment later, I move on with my unaffected life.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2006 @ 9:52pm

    No Subject Given

    Dear Comcast,

    I only want 2 channels for my "package". The SciFi Channel and the Playboy Channel, with access to VOD and Pay-Per-View offerings such as the Spice Channel. I shouldn't be forced to subscribe to 150+ channels and have to pay over $100 just for 2 channels.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    mrbonaparte, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 8:55am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Let parents buy just the channels they want so they don't have to worry about the garbage on TV their kids might turn on. or turn off the TV and read them a book.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    mrbonaparte, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 8:55am

    Re: No Subject Given

    good point

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    mrbonaparte, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 9:02am

    Re: a wide swath

    3) Are you so full of free time that you can watch what your kids are doing 24x7? Do your kids NEVER go against what they are told? What about the teenagers in your house? Are they not the type that figures out how to reset passwords, or bypass content filters? What about single parents who can't possibly control what their children are doing when they are at work?

    Kids can always go over to their friends house. You can't protect kids 100% Just try and talk to them and teach them right from wrong instead of sitting them infront of the TV.




     

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  26.  
    identicon
    mrbonaparte, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 9:04am

    Re: No Subject Given

    There's an elementary school near where I live and there are 3 gun shops next to and across the street from this school.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    huh, Mar 6th, 2006 @ 9:05am

    Re: I don't want all this stuff on my internet eit

    no parental controls for your internet access?

     

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