The entire cable industry vowed to fight Congress following Sen. Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) recent call to impose broadcast-indecency restrictions on cable networks. Well, almost the entire cable industry, anyway.
A Disney executive tells B&C that, as the owner of ABC Family, ESPN as well as the ABC broadcast network, the House of Mouse actually favors indecency limits on extended basic lineups. That prospect alarms other companies—shows like South Park and Nip/Tuck would have to be cleaned up or aired only after 10 p.m.—but Disney’s fine with it. “Ultimately, all the attempts to distinguish cable from broadcast will fail,” says the Disney exec.
Of course, anytime you hear a media company volunteering for tighter government controls, it sets off the old Follow the Money alarm bells. As it happens, some lawmakers are suggesting an alternative to the content restrictions: forcing cable operators to allow “à la carte” channel shopping so that parents can opt not to receive channels they don’t want their kids to see. Mostly wholesome Disney doesn’t have much to fear there. Ah, but à la carte selection would also allow millions of subscribers who don’t like sports but do like cutting expenses to dump ESPN—one of the priciest items on cable’s prix fixe menu.