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Cable, satellite TV scolded about sex

WASHINGTON – Sexed-up, profanity-laced shows on cable and satellite TV should be for adult eyes only, and providers must do more to shield children or could find themselves facing indecency fines, the nation’s top communications regulator says.

“Parents need better and more tools to help them navigate the entertainment waters, particularly on cable and satellite TV,” Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin told Congress on Tuesday.

Martin suggested several options, including a “family-friendly” tier of channels that would offer shows suitable for kids, such as the programs shown on the Nickelodeon channel.

He also said cable and satellite providers could consider letting consumers pay for a bundle of channels that they could choose themselves – an “a la carte” pricing system. If providers don’t find a way to monitor smut on television, Martin said, federal decency standards should be considered.

“You can always turn the television off and, of course, block the channels you don’t want,” he said, “but why should you have to?”

Martin spoke at an all-day forum on indecency before the Senate Commerce Committee. It included more than 20 entertainment industry, government and public interest leaders with differing views on whether broadcast networks, cable and satellite companies need more regulation.

Cable and satellite representatives defended their operations and said they’ve been working to help educate parents on the tools the companies offer to block unwanted programming. They also said “a la carte” pricing would drive up costs for equipment, customer service and marketing – charges that would likely be passed to subscribers.

Others at the forum, such as the Christian Coalition, urged Congress to increase the fines against indecency on the airwaves from the current $32,500 maximum penalty per violation to $500,000.

Since the Janet Jackson “breast-exposure” at the Super Bowl nearly two years ago, indecency foes have turned up the pressure on Congress to do more to cleanse the airwaves.

Congress is considering several bills that would boost fines. Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said some critics have complained the bills don’t go far enough and that decency standards should be expanded to cover cable and satellite.

Currently, obscenity and indecency standards apply to over-the-air broadcasters only. Congress would need to give the FCC the authority to police cable and satellite programming.


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