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FCC Chief Presses Cable Firms

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From Reuters

Cable TV companies need to do more to provide customers with improved channel selection choices, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin said Wednesday.

He called plans for new cable packages of family-oriented television channels an “important step,” but said cable system operators also could reimburse subscribers for channels they want blocked or permit them to pick and pay for only the channels they want.

“I still think that more needs to be done to address the consumers’ concerns,” Martin told a House subcommittee reviewing the FCC’s annual budget. “I continue to be hopeful that there will be more progress.”

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Some regulators and lawmakers have argued that so-called a la carte programming would give cable customers greater control over their cable offerings. Cable operators have resisted a la carte service, saying costs would rise and certain niche channels would fail. The industry has also said it would hurt ad revenue.

Cable operators have offered technology that would allow families to weed out objectionable content. Several companies, including Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc., have said they would soon offer packages of family-oriented programming.

But Martin noted that there had been complaints that the family packages do not include some of the most popular channels, such as the sports network ESPN, which is owned by Walt Disney Co.

FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate on Tuesday made similar comments at a gathering of the National Assn. of Broadcasters: “I’ve been applauding them, but at the same time I’ve been saying I don’t think you’ve gone far enough. I think it’s a first step, a good step.”


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