Stevens Sees Indecency Bills Going Away


Following the Senate Commerce Committee meeting Monday, Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) told reporters he thought cable operators' voluntary adoption of family tiers, combined with simplified TV ratings, would obviate the need for legislation, at least in the short term.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow told the committee Monday that he expected operators representing more than half  of  U.S. cable subs would start rolling out family tiers in the first quarter of 2006, with others considering the move.

Former Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valeni also said that the TV industry would come up with a simplified ratings system closer to the MPAA movie code.

Currently, the TV ratings include various combinations of descriptors that can be confusing.

Stevens said that it would be up to the American public to decide whether that voluntary action or tiering plus ratings will be suffient. But he said, "I believe it will be and, if it is, as far as I'm concerned, that will be the end of [legislation]."

There are currently four indecency-related bills before his committee, but Stevens said he didn't see any going forward, including boosting indecency fines and enforcement. "As far as I'm concerned, none of them have enough support for us to move as long as this process works," he said.

Stevens said he had no message to the satellite industry about family-friendly tiers, saying that he thought that once cable created the tiers, "American families will go to that tier," and suggesting  the pressure will be on satellite to do its own tiering when cable operators are "attracting new customers away from those entities that will not create a family tier."

Stevens said he did not expect a family tier to cost more than expanded basic, adding that he was not concerned that the cable pledge is to do family tiers in digital, which is more expensive than analog service. "We're going to move into total digital very soon," he said, "so I don't see any temporary advantage or disadvantage at all."