FCC chair backs bill for cable checkpoints


WASHINGTON -- FCC chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday praised the introduction of legislation that seeks to apply broadcast indecency standards to cable programming and force cable operators to offer programming on a per-channel basis.

The sponsors of the Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007 claim that the legislation is necessary to give parents control of their televisions.

"In today's culture, parents are increasingly worried that their children are exposed to obscene, indecent and violent programming," said Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. "While there is no doubt that parents are the first line of defense in protecting their kids, clearly they need more help."

Lipinski and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., are the bill's primary sponsors. Martin endorsed the bill, saying the legislation closely tracks policies he has been pushing for at the commission.

"While it may surprise some, I actually agree with many critics of the FCC that parents -- not the government -- should be the first and last line of defense," Martin said. "But that means that parents must have meaningful choices and that their choices must have meaningful consequences. If a family must continue to pay for programming even when they object to it, there is little or no incentive for programrs to respond."

The legislation gives cable operators three choices:

  Apply broadcast indecency standards to their programming between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.;

  Define a "family tier" as all channels in the expanded basic tier, except those that have programming rated TV-Mature or TV-14;

  Offer an opt-out a la carte programming option, such that any channel a subscriber does not want to receive will be blocked, with the subscriber receiving a credit on their bill for the blocked channels.