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Santorum Staffer Praises, Prods Cable - Broadcasting & Cable

Santorum Staffer Praises, Prods Cable

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The message to the cable industry on content control from Mark Rogers, staff director for Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) was simple--literally. That simplicity includes making content-control tools as easy as possible and restricting advertising not suitable for children.

Rogers told a luncheon crowd of cable marketers that their industry needs to do three things to keep Congress off their backs: 1) Keep providing parental control tools, 2) make them as simple as possible, and 3) "restrict the bad," which he defined as "content that we all acknowledge is not appropriate for children."

Rogers praised the industry for its parental-control technology efforts to date, and Comcast in particular for offering a family tier, but he suggested more needs to be done in all areas, including heading No. 3 above. "I think that there are other areas of 'restricting the bad' that you all should be contemplating," he said.

One of those is ad content. "I know many of us, as we're watching sports shows, for example, with our children, immediately think of those awkward situations where the ad content is just obviously inappropriate." He said more attention to what is being advertised "at times when children are watching with us or without us would be very helpful."

Adonis Hoffman, senior VP and counsel to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, didn't see a problem with advertising. "Advertisers understand the downside of crossing the gray line between what is permissible and impermissible," he said, "and they have done a remarkably good job of self-restraint."

"In the sports category, you're just not seeing over-the-top advertisements which, again, attests to a measure of self-regulation," Hoffman said.

The three-point plan, Rogers suggested, is an alternative to government-policing content. He said his boss favored self regulation but suggeseted that has to be a team effort between the industry and parents. Rogers said he did not entirely trust cable to be the sole gatekeeper, but said instead that it needs to help parents by supplying the simplest, most effective content controls, plus tightening its ad-placement policy.

Another concern, Rogers told the Cable Television Public Affairs Association Forum attendees in Washington, was unrated versions of PG-13 movies getting into the distribution pipeline.

Rogers did say that cable was already doing a good job of providing content controls. "We do want to commend you for that work," he said, which he added does not get enough credit. He said it was partly Congress' fault for not giving sufficient praise where it was due.

Rogers praised the "pause, parent, play" industry-education effort, saying that he believed entertainment consumption is healthy and pointing out that the last word in the campaign, after all, was "play."

Santorum and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) were early supporters, and informal advisors, to the campaign, which was launched last summer. The two have been among the most vocal proponents of limiting children's exposure to graphic TV and videogame content.

The campaign stands for: PAUSE—Take a minute to think about the media that is available and how their kids might react to it; PARENT—Decide what is appropriate for their own kids, talk with them, and use the options at their disposal to help them; and PLAY—Enjoy the media with their kids.

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