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DEBATING RATINGS

'Keep an open mind,' Chong tells cablers

NEW ORLEANS — FCC commissioner Rachelle Chong told cablers gathering here Sunday for their annual four-day confab that they should pay attention to calls from government and public interest groups who want to see a more content-oriented program ratings system.

‘Listen carefully’

While expressing concern about government intrusion in the area of content regulation, Chong warned cablers that the integrity of the ratings system needed to be shored up. “Listen carefully to any modifications suggested to you and keep an open mind,” said Chong.

When it comes to alcohol advertising, Chong said the FCC has no place in the debate. Several cable systems, and some cable networks such as BET, have accepted the hard alcohol ads.

FCC Chairman Reed Hundt wants the FCC to jump into the debate by conducting an investigation of hard liquor ad sales on both broadcasting and cable. In contrast, Chong said Sunday the fight should be left for Congress to resolve.

Modems hyping

Cablers plan to spend the next several days hyping their new cable modems, which they say will speed up Internet access by a factor of 1,000 over conventional modems.

Both Chong and fellow commissioner Susan Ness said government should refrain from regulating the Internet on both content and economic areas. Ness reminded her audience that the FCC recently turned down a request from the Baby Bells, which wanted to begin charging Internet providers extra fees for access to telephone networks.

Revenue streams

Faced with competition from DBS, cablers are looking for other revenue streams, one of which they hope will be the high-speed Internet service piped through cable’s fiber optic networks.

Members of Congress, FCC officials and cable honchos such as Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner were told that initial subscribers to the high-speed service will be charged up to $40 a month.

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