December 26, 2005

Martin Urges a la Carte Cable Programming, Consumer Choice

Posted by Amanda Toering
Wednesday October 12th 2005, 9:03 am
Filed under: FCC, Media Watch, Indecency

Speaking at a conference of investors in North Carolina yesterday, Kevin Martin reiterated his support of “a la carte” cable programming.

Communications companies should give customers the power to avoid content they consider indecent, the industry’s chief regulator said Monday at Charlotte’s Westin Hotel.

New technology and flexible packaging, such as allowing people to choose the channels they receive, could help the industry relieve customer frustration, said Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.


Martin, one of five FCC commissioners since 2001, has argued for harsher punishment of broadcast obscenities. On Monday, he emphasized instead that companies should help people avoid content they don’t want.

“We need to figure out improvements that allow for customers to have more control,” he said.

Advocates of a la carte programming (including the Parents Television Council) assert that allowing consumers to subscribe only to channels they want is a potential solution to indecency fines. Broadcasters and cable providers are, predictably, opposed to the idea, saying it will cost consumers more and worrying that their less popular stations will die in obscurity.

Martin neglected to mention the best consumer control tool of all — the remote control. Don’t like a program? Don’t watch it. Set rules for your kids. What could be simpler? Do we really need an act of Congress to solve this problem?


In other news, Martin also voiced his support for the relaxation of media ownership rules that prevent media conglomerates from owning both a newspaper and a television affiliate in any one city.

Martin favors easing a decades-old prohibition on a single company owning a television station and a newspaper in the same city. The FCC voted to change the rule in 2003, but the changes were gutted by a Federal court. Martin said the FCC would try again late this year or early next.

Media watchdogs quake at the thought of additional consolidation of an already quasi-monopolized business. In addition, our friends at The Center for Creative Voices in the Media have issued a report asserting that one of the causes of the current furor over indecency is ownership concentration that already exists. FCC commish Michael Copps has applauded that report.

So, Martin argues for reducing indecency, while exacerbating one of the suggested roots of the problem…?

Quoted text from the Charlotte Observer.

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2 Comments so far

I don’t believe that when newspapers and TV stations in the same city are owned by the same corporation, the result is more indecency.

The problem in New York (where this is already allowed for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.) is that the New York Post will run an obnoxious right-wing article, and then the Fox broadcast news will uncritically echo it.

Media diversity is important to prevent a concentration of power and to promote more critical dialogue.

I don’t want indecency to be treated as a problem and more media diversity as the solution.

“The Howard Stern Show” is one of the best radio shows in the US, and one of the most fined for “indecency.”

Comment by Eric Jaffa 10.12.05 @ 10:38 am

One more thing:

When I’ve seen Fox broadcast news in NY uncritically echo an obnoxious right-wing NY Post article, there was no disclaimer that they are both owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Comment by Eric Jaffa 10.12.05 @ 10:40 am

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