Congress wants to play nanny, again

Congress is talking about making satellite and cable more ‘family friendly’ again, CNET reports.

I’m all for parents controlling what their kids watch. Your kids, raise them your way. But it bugs me when efforts extend to limiting content and offerings in general in the name of the kids. It is an old saw that politicians love to go back to – ‘protect the children’. It gets press and plays well. But is it really effective? We got the V-chip – and that seems to have been a complete flop. Then parental controls available on basically every set top box – also apparently a failure. The groups who lobbied for these controls and got them, don’t feel they’re effective. Now they want more:

  • Ensure that all content broadcast between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. complies with existing broadcast indecency rules (including, for example, the “F-word” and sexual or “patently offensive” activities),
  • Allow subscribers to opt for a “family tier” that would exclude all programming with a “mature audiences” or TV-14 rating, or
  • Allow subscribers to opt out of any channel they don’t want to receive–with a few exceptions–and in return, place a credit on their bills equivalent to the cost of providing those channels.

I don’t see how the first two offer anything that the V-chip and parental controls don’t offer. Block all content TV-14 or higher – same end result, without limiting the content choices for others.

As for the third, I don’t normally side with the cable industry on pretty much anything, but this time I do. Congress, and the FCC, have been agitating for ‘a la carte’ programming for a while, and the industry has resisted. The argument is that a la carte programming would offer consumers a lower cost option, by being able to select just the channels they want to watch – which would also allow them to ‘exclude’ channels form their household.

But the cable industry argues that this is exactly the opposite of what would happen. The way channels are sold to the MSOs is in bundles. For example, NBC has NBC, SciFi, Bravo, USA, and others. They sell the bundles to the MSOs at a discount, based on all of the networks reaching homes so that more advertising can be sold. But if the channels have to be sold a la carte then the content providers will charge more for each channel, and that cost will be passed on the the consumer. I believe the cable industry is correct with this one.

A smarter option, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association argues, is to take advantage of what it calls “a wide variety of a wide variety of parental controls through cable set-top boxes and the V-chip which allow them to control content by time, show, network and rating.” TiVo’s KidZone service, which launched more than a year ago, is one such offering.

I strongly agree with this. The tools are already there for parents to use and it is more appropriate, in my opinion, for each household to decide what is appropriate for themselves. I think the FCC and Congress have more important things to do than decide what content we can access on our cable and satellite systems.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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