Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

FCC's Martin Calls For 'A La Carte' Cable Pricing

In a rare bit of Washington theater, it was Ralphie from the Sopranos taking on the FCC's Harry Potter in what amounted to a preview of the upcoming Congressional showdown over potential television indecency regulation.

While it was not an official hearing, Tuesday's Open Forum on Decency hosted by Senate Commerce committee chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, gave ample Webcast air time to representatives of both sides of the debate over what should or should not be done to regulate indecency on the airwaves, especially on cable and satellite television services.

Indecency regulation ideas, a hot topic since the entry of wardrobe malfunction into the entertainment lexicon, are key parts of proposed telecom reform legislation that Congress will study in earnest early next year.

While the list of speakers at Tuesday's forum was long, the bully pulpit belonged to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin (who could act as a stand-in for a certain teenage wizard). Martin, whose agency enforces indecency regulations for over-the-air broadcasters in the U.S., used his speaking time to champion ideas like "a la carte" packaging of cable channels, or separate adult-only or family-only channel bundles as methods to better help parents keep children's eyes off inappropriate content.

The support for a la carte packaging is a reversal of recent FCC policy; according to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal, an upcoming FCC paper on cable TV will champion a la carte as a potentially less-expensive option, contradicting a similar review conducted in 2004 under then-chairman Michael Powell that found a la carte to be a more-expensive proposition for consumers.

  • 1