In a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on his reappointment, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat and indecency hawk, said on Tuesday he wants to keep the pressure on cable companies to offer family-friendly programming even after the two largest, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc., announced on Monday their intention to offer groupings of family-friendly channels in early ’06.
Last month Republican FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin had applied substantial initial torque at another Commerce Committee hearing, stating, “Cable and satellite operators could offer an exclusively family-friendly programming package as an alternative to the ‘expanded basic’ tier on cable or the initial tier on DBS [Direct Broadcast Satellite] … Parents could get Nickelodeon and Discovery without having to buy other adult-oriented fare.” Martin also advocated a la carte vs bundled cable channel pricing, which certainly caught the industry’s ear.
Reading the pending legislation on the wall, Monday, Comcast, Time Warner and four other cable operators responded, but Copps isn’t ready to back off, stating Tuesday before the committee, “Trust but verify. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where we can say we don’t need legislation,” he said. “Let’s keep pushing.”
The Senate panel, which is reviewing four bills aimed at limiting indecency on TV and radio, will not vote on any legislation this month, committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said after the hearing. The cable companies “are making very good progress,” he said. “We’ll need to give an opportunity for these initiatives to take hold.”
The FCC has substantial leverage over Comcast and Time Warner because it must approve their bid to buy Adelphia Cable.