NCTA: Fighting Indecency, Remotely


Remote control manufacturer Universal Electronics is seeking to capitalize on the cable industry's effort to offer more "family friendly" programming and limit children's access to indecent content with the Cricket, a new kids remote control it is demonstrating at the NCTA show in Las Vegas.

The brightly-colored plastic Cricket features only ten channel buttons and simple power and volume controls. It doesn't allow children to channel-surf, access programs recorded on a DVR, or inadvertently mess up home-theater settings, and it is made of tougher plastic than standard remotes in order to withstand being frequently dropped by small hands. 

The Cricket has eight branded buttons that tune directly to family-friendly networks Animal Planet, Cartoon Network, Discovery Kids, Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Nickelodeon, Noggin and PBS Kids. There are two additional "star" and "moon" buttons that allow parents to program two other networks of their desire. The existing eight branded buttons can be reprogrammed to other networks, says Universal Electronics' Mike Hirsch, and parents can also set it to block one of the branded buttons if they find the content objectionable.

The company didn't receive requests from major operators for such a device, says Hirsch. But given ongoing pressure on the industry from the FCC, Universal thought such a device would be attractive to operators, who might want to bundle the Cricket with family-friendly programming packages.

"It's fun and easy to use for kids, it gives parents peace of mind, and it allows cable operators to be proactive," he says.