Copps: ‘Meaningful’ Family Tiers

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Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps will be looking to see whether new family-programming tiers offered by cable and satellite companies represent an attractive offer to consumers.

"Let's make sure that the plans they are coming up with are really meaningful. Are they coming up with something that gives people diversity?" Copps said in a 30-minute interview set to air Monday at 7:30 p.m. on C-SPAN 2 and Saturday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. on C-SPAN.

Under political pressure about raunchy programming, Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. were first out last month with tiers of family-friendly programming, but some critics complained about the exclusion of some prominent cable brands.

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and George Allen (R-Va.) noted the absence of ESPN at a Senate hearing earlier this week, but Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said the popular sports network was excluded because of programming inappropriate for children.

Nevertheless, Copps indicated that family tiers could flop if they fail to include some of cable's best-known names in news, sports and information.

"Is it designed to succeed or is it designed to fail?" Copps asked C-SPAN interviewer Susan Swain. "I'm hoping it's designed to succeed, and I'm hoping before it's actually implemented that it will be designed to succeed."

Copps, a Democrat appointed by President Bush in 2001, was confirmed by the Senate last month for a second five-year term.

Network neutrality is another concern of his, Copps said, adding that news stories about how some broadband-network owners planned to charge Web sites for quality-of-service guarantees caught his eye.

"I don't think it was ever supposed to be a gated community. This was supposed to be an open, thriving, come-one, come-all kind of network," Copps said.

In other comments, Copps said the United States needs a national broadband strategy, adding that the country fell to 16th in the world in broadband penetration.

"If [people] don't have it, they are just not going to have the economic opportunity that people better off in this country are going to have or people in other countries that are way ahead of us in broadband are going to have," he added.

The FCC, he added, had to address media consolidation in order to stop a handful of companies from controlling the dominant news outlets in a local market.

"We have got to come to terms with what is happening to localism and diversity," he added.

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