Adelstein Hasn't Joined 'Tiering' Bandwagon


FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein isn't ready to join growing chorus of calls for the cable industry to offer family-themed tiers or "a la carte" channels to protect children from inappropriate programming.

He also praised new cable content ratings education efforts, and the industry's multicasting deal with noncommercial broadcasters, which he called a smart move as well as a public-spirited one.

In a speech to cable industry public relations execs, he said cable should do more to explain how those options could either drive up consumers' costs by eliminating much of the advertising base for niche or lower-rated channels, or eliminate choice by driving weaker channels out of business.

"It's easy to say you shouldn't pay for channels you don't want, but the other side...deserves consideration." Adelstein said he hasn't bought into the arguments against family tiers and a la carte either, but that the impact on costs and viability of lower-rated channels "are counterweights that ought to be considered."

Adelstein made his comments before the annual Washington conference of the Cable Television Public Affairs Association.

The cable industry's plan to spend $250 million on a public affairs campaign to educate parents about channel blocking technology is "fantastic," he said.

Adelstein also talked about his decision to join an FCC majority to reject broadcasters' demand for cable carriage rights for all their digital multicast channels.

He said broadcasters gave him little reason to support their request by refusing to agree to a quota of local programming and other public interest obligations in return for expanded carriage rights.

Cable, on the other hand, went the extra mile in demonstrating commitment to the public interest by striking a multicast carriage deal with public TV stations. "You did a better job responding to policymakers' concerns," he said. "It was a very smart move, but it was also one that serves the public."