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FCC pushes for more cable content control

Martin wants cablers to go beyond existing technology

ATLANTA — Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin J. Martin made it clear that while existing blocking technology is effective, he believes the cable industry can and should do more to help parents control content at home.

Speaking to reporters at a brief press conference during cablers’ annual convention here, Martin said some people have “legitimate concerns” about some cablers’ recently announced family tiers, particularly since sports channels have been excluded.

Martin added that he has no preference for any one possible extra measure — like a la carte subscriptions or voluntary imposition of an indecency standard — so long as it “increases consumers’ ability” to address unwanted content. “Putting more controls in the hands of consumers is better than government controls,” he said.

Asked why he thought existing blocking measures aren’t sufficient, Martin said, “Many (cable) blocking technologies are only available in digital format, and digital penetration is only about 40% right now.”

Martin added the industry opposes granting digital capabilities to all households because it is “too expensive. They’d have to put it in 60% of the market. But those same cable operators will say there’s no need to do it because 40% of homes already have digital.” Cablers, he implied, need to decide which argument they want to make.

Martin said he also still favors a return to a “family viewing hour” on broadcast television.