Comcast: We’re Keeping Content Promises

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Comcast Corp. is informing Congress and the Federal Communications Commission that it has delivered on promises to help parents block programming that they deem inappropriate for their children.

Even since the Super Bowl, the cable industry has been forced to respond to political pressure that expanded basic includes indecent programming that is as easy for kids to access as Cartoon Network and C-SPAN.

In response to calls for regulating sex and violence on cable the same way as on broadcasting, the cable industry has mounted a campaign intended to empower its customers with the information and technology they need to keep out harmful programming.

Comcast Cable Communications Inc. president Stephen Burke recently wrote key members of Congress and FCC chairman Michael Powell outlining steps that the company has completed. Burke pledged action in a March 1 letter to the same group of leaders.

In the April 20 letter, Burke said Comcast had installed a dedicated toll-free line that consumers can call to speak with a person trained to answer questions about parental controls. A reporter who checked the system in the mid-afternoon reached a Comcast employee in 10 seconds.

Burke also explained Web-site upgrades and plans to include parental-control notices in subscriber bills in May and June. And the MSO is rolling out short how-to videos on available blocking tools to digital-video and video-on-demand customers.

Along with the other major MSOs, Comcast has agreed to provide without additional charge "whatever equipment is necessary" for customers to have the ability to activate parental controls.

Burke said programming networks controlled by Comcast are using, or will be using by early summer, the TV-rating system on all programming except news and sports. The rating system is critical to activating the V-chip in TVs.

Although lawmakers praised Comcast's efforts when they were announced in early March, some policymakers want cable to go further. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Republican FCC member Kevin Martin advocate refunding consumers the cost of channels they have blocked due to indecent content.