Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said Monday that he doesn't feel the need to pressure satellite TV to follow the cable industry's lead in pledging family-friendly tiers. "I think they'll get the message themselves," he told reporters following the announcement by National Cable & Telecommunications President Kyle McSlarrow.
Then Tuesday, Stevens said he didn't think cable programmers would need to be pressured into making deals with operators for family-friendly tiers: "I don't think we need to do that because, if there is a family tier, they can't get on with smut, they can't get on it with violence, and they can't get on it with excessive sexuality."
Looking to capitalize on the family-friendly wave in Washington, one satellite programmer says it is a leader, not a follower, in the family-friendly tier business, and has written every member of the Senate Commerce committee and met in person with some members and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to make its point, according to company spokeswoman Nancy Christopher.
Sky Angel delivers 20 channels of what it labels family-friendly and faith-based TV (and 16 radio stations as well) thanks to a symbiotic agreement with EchoStar. (Sky Angel parent Dominion Video Satellite has FCC licenses EchoStar needs and EchoStar has the satellite capacity, so Sky Angel leases the channels and subleases some channels back along with the licenses, according to the company.)
The company does not give out subscriber figures, but Christopher says there are some mainstream family-friendly channels trying to get carriage, and it has recently added Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movie Channel, HGTV and Fox News Channel to the lineup, its first big-name channel addition as it broadens beyond its faith-based lineup to more-mainstream family channels.
In addition to pitching themselves as a family-friendly tiering resource, Sky Angel VP, Programming, Kathy Johnson told the legislators that some change to the TV-ratings system was needed.
She pointed out that EchoStar and, because of their partnership, Sky Angel use the MPAA system to rate shows on their electronic program guides, while the TV shows themselves use a TV rating. As a result, she says, a movie cut to G for TV may still rate an R by the MPAA code in the guide.
She wrote: "This obviously causes confusion and renders the parental blocking tools ineffective."