Now, Martin Says Family Tiers Are Kinda Boring

from the make-up-your-mind dept

FCC chairman Kevin Martin's been wasting spending a lot of time trying to push cable operators to offer so-called family-friendly tiers of channels, holding the threat of forcing them to offer a la carte programming over their heads. Last month, he whined that the family tiers cable companies had announced weren't inoffensive enough, but now he's complaining that they're awfully boring, especially since they don't include sports channels. Putting Goldilocks comparisons aside for a moment, is Martin aware of a hidden amendment to the Constitution that guarantees the right to a cable television service that adheres to some personal code of decency? If people are so offended by cable TV content, they already have a number of choices, such as using parental controls offered on many cable boxes and TVs, or even -- gasp -- just not getting cable at all. As nice as a la carte programming sounds, particularly for the easily offended, its implementation will likely fall well short of its promise, and would probably end up increasing most people's cable bills. But apparently that's a small price for the rest of us to pay to help a minority of people stamp out all the rampant filth that's invaded their living room -- at their own invitation, of course.
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  1. identicon
    David, 12 Apr 2006 @ 10:54am

    Re: Now, Martin Says

    I am one of the easily offended. I use parental controls for my basic digital cable. Unfortunately, many shows are not rated at all, never mind discussing whether theyare being rated appropriately.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    giafly, 12 Apr 2006 @ 11:00am

    Sport is not guaranteed Family Friendly

    Viewers of this years' Boat Race will recall the following...

    "Seb Pearce, Oxford's recently appointed cox, made only one mistake, when the people from ITV switched on his microphone and featured him in a starring role saying: "Right, let's fucking attack them."" - The Guardian

    Very funny because of the timing. And that was the last we heard from the guy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Ethical Wack Job, 12 Apr 2006 @ 11:18am

    I am one of the easily offended as well, and I would like to complain that I cannot get my cable TV provider to add channels ala carte to their "digital radio station" package that comes along with my digital cable. I do not understand why they will not offer me the Howard Stern Show ala carte along with my basic cable. I also cannot get them to give me PAX TV ala carte. Nor can I get them to honor the 10 percent discount I was supposed to get for joining the auto club, or the 20 percent discount I was supposed to get for joining the local coven. THE FCC MUST DO SOMETHING FOR PETES SAKE!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    StinkyJones, 12 Apr 2006 @ 11:53am


    Omigosh... I LOVE filth! Particularly, my own!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    StinkyJones, 12 Apr 2006 @ 11:56am

    By The Way...

    I'm sitting in it right now!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Chief Elf (profile), 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:00pm

    and commericials...

    Parental controls also don't work well to block unseemly commercials. We don't watch much of anything anymore without recording it first so we can zip through the commericals. We also use a TV Guardian, which I highly recommend.

    At any rate, cable-a-la-carte may become moot if TV signals start getting shipped via TCP/IP. It could all be a-la-carte.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Patrick, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:24pm

    Forget Decency I still want a la cart!

    I don't have kids and even if I did I would be make sure I knew what my kids watched on tv. Still I want a la cart becuase I am tired of "choosing" the super elite package with 5000 channel just so I can get access to the 10-15 channels I want to watch. This cable packaging deal is a big scam. I have have several service provides in my time and never have i been with one that included the channels I like in the basic package. It always seems that there are 2 -3 channels that I really want access to that require me to purchase the super premium package. For once it would be nice for a media company to allow me to purchase exactly what I want without ramming a bunch of crap down along with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    DontWatchMuch, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:28pm

    I'd like a la carte.

    I'd like a la carte, I think. Not because I want to be sure no garbage gets in, but because I have 70+ channels on basic of which I actually watch maybe 15 and many of those I can get over the air. If I could get local networks, PBS, History, Discovery, Disney, Nickelodeon, HGTV(for the wife) and a couple others I'd be happy to pass on the other stuff.
    Even with all 70+ channels I have trouble finding something to watch.
    I had TW digital for a while when they had a promotion and I loved all the on demand stuff they had. Between that and the DVR that was in the promo I always had something to watch, sometimes too much. Imagine sitting and watching the whole season of Soppranos in 1 weekend, just because you could. Maybe that's not a good thing after all. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Howard, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:32pm

    If you don't like what is on TV...

    If you don't like what is on TV, the cure is simple. Grab the channel selector in one hand, and the on/off switch in the other, and shake vigorously until you get a result to like better. I don't have a lot of symphathy for self-inflicted injuries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    DontWatchMuch, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:39pm

    Re: If you don't like what is on TV...

    I do that quite often but it's diappointing when you finaly have time after a busy day and all you want to do is be briefly entertained by the box but there is nothing of interest on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Don Gray, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Forget Decency I still want a la cart!

    My expectations based on my admittedly limited understanding of economics is that whatever you're paying for the "super duper 5000 channel package" is likely the same or less than you would pay to be able to cherry pick your favorite 10-15 channels.

    I also do not like paying for something I don't use, but the concern I have is that if we get what we are asking for (a la carte channel selection) we may suddenly realize that our 10-15 favorite channels are not the ones the majority of people watch. Which of course may lead to them being dropped or priced significantly higher to offset the limited viewership. Leading to my first observation.

    Case in point: I would love to be able to watch the FIA WRC races. I would pay to be able to do so. How much I'm not sure, but the fact that the two main "Speed" channels don't carry them (choosing to run NASCRAP 24x7) tells me it would likely be more than I would care to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Kilroy, 12 Apr 2006 @ 1:03pm

    Reality Check...

    A la carte will never happen because 975 of the 1000 channels that ride along in premium packages will go out of business because no one likes to pay for something they won't use if they have the option to not.

    In the perfect world cable companies would realize that the pissing contest to have the most worthless channels is over and that what customers really want isnt more selection but a lower bill without giving up the 1-2 channels they truly want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Justin, 12 Apr 2006 @ 1:11pm

    Yes A la carte the way we want will not happen in the near. But what if it could... oh man !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Bob McTavish, 12 Apr 2006 @ 1:54pm

    Pay for your own channels

    To #11:

    Why should everyone else subscribing to cable be subsidizing your particular choice of viewing? If you want to watch the FIA WRC races, that's YOUR business, but most people I think would rather NOT pay for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Geaman1, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:06pm


    I don't get the big argument, I mean TV sux
    everyone knows it. Until corporate America gets off there lazy tails and starts producing quality television I will stick to IPTV. Kevin Rose is a genius and deserves credit for the IPTV wave that has hit the internet. When Normal TV starts producing the quality programs I can find (and watch anytime I might ad) on the internet I will be happy to shell out $50 - $100 a month for cable TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    JSprong, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:28pm

    The other "option"

    as for me and my household, we just go without cable. The five channels we would have wanted to get "a la carte" are the ones we get with that big ole antenna on top of the roof. TV rots your brain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Miller, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:47pm

    The more you watch TV, the less intelligent you are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Greg Spira, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:49pm

    Why A La Carte Cable Would Cost More

    Bob - Because they're not subsidizing it; they're actually getting paid to get that channel. Cable customrts actually really pay a lot more than they actually do for the channels they want and then they get a rebate for accepting the channels they don't want (For example, if your bill is $50, you're actually paying $80 for the channels you really want and getting a $30 rebate for accepting the channels you don't want to pay for.) Cable networks and franchises benefit from users taking channels they wouldn't pay for because those users will end up warching those channels and seeing the advertisements. If those users didn't have those channels they didn't think are worth paying for, they'd watch somewhat less television and more programs on over-the-air stations, and cable gets zero benefit from people doing those things.

    The end result of a la carte cable would therefore be that most people's cable bills will go up, because they'll no longer get that rebate that's built into the bill. (Customers who only subscribe to a few channels or just want to get HBO would obviously save money)

    Kevin Martin's full of hot air with this stuff regarding sports. Sports channels are by far the most expensive cable channels. If cable companies included the sports channels in their family packages, the prices for those packages would rise substantially and then Martin would be complaining that customers don't save any money by subscribing to only the family tier. Which would be true, for the reasons I stated above.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:51pm

    Rots what?

    I just want the Spice Channel. Can i just get the spice channel. All I want to watch is bad actors getting it on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2006 @ 6:15pm

    It's Easy - why not allow al la carte?

    Let me get this straight:

    Techdirt is FOR internet companies applying state sales tax accross thousands of municipalities since "computers will make it simple".

    But is AGAINST personal choice in choosing individual cable channels since it is so complicated.

    Just checking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Greg, 12 Apr 2006 @ 10:48pm

    A La Carte

    Where on earth did you come up with "complicated"? There's absolutely nothing even remotely close to that in the post. If you are going to make up a straw man, it's usually a good idea to make it at least semi-plausible.

    And evidently, you are against letting companies individually choose whether to offer channels a la carte. You think that the government should be able to force companies to run their busineeses the way the government wants them to. That he government should be able to force businesses to run their companies in a way that ensures that the average consumer will end up paying more money for less channels.

    I do wonder - where were all the complaints for all those years that consumers were forced to pay extra for tv sets that recieved all VHF and UHF channels? Many people would have been perfectly happy with a tv that just received one or two channels, and the governmenbt could have forced tv manufacturers to make and sell those cheaper, limited tvs!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Skippy, 13 Apr 2006 @ 11:42am

    Re: A La Carte

    The latest study shows that 20 channels are the break even point on people's bills with a la carte. The average family watches 17 channels, so the average family would save money on their cable bills. Search the net, find the study and read it. It reveals much about the cable / sat scam for bundling and how they "miscalculate" the amount it would cost per channel if a la carte was in effect.

    And dont confuse yourself too much. TV is a duopoloy market and the consumer has little to no say in what is broadcasted. We get what is negotiated by the providers per THEIR interest not ours. Which is the single biggest problem.

    Outside the local market OTA channels there are maybe 7 cable / sat channels I would actually ever watch. I would save tremendously on my bill by only subscribing to those 7. However, I do not have that choice in this duopoloy market, nor am I ever going to get that choice without some outside force because that may hurt their bottom line which is truely all the companies care about (understandably, to a limit).

    In the end we can simply look at 2 things: 1.) Ignoring cost, savings, or anthing else; Would consumers prefer to choose what they want or have it forced on them? 2.) Why do the companies that control giving consumers what they want resist giving it to them?

    My answer to #1 is Choice. All things being equal consumers will always want to pick what they want and how they want it. #2 is as simple as... they dont want it because it does not benefit them. They aren't resisting because they are trying to protect consumer's pocket books. If it cost them the same and gave user's better choice and gave them a better image, they would have implemented it. And without question, if they could make more off a la carte, they would have implemented that long ago without hesitation because their bottom lines are more important than any single customer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Greg, 13 Apr 2006 @ 12:20pm

    I disagree with #1; consumers will often prefer saving money over choice. In fact, consumers often hate choice; they find it too confusing and overwhelming

    And 2) Obviously, yes, they're advocating their position because it's to their benefit. But that doesn't mean it's not to consumers' benefit as well. A la carte will hurt the cable franchises and many cable networks. But it will help over-the air channels and the broadcast networks, as well as pay channels like HBO and Showtime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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