Cox Helps Parents 'Take Charge’ of Their TVs

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With research finding considerable concern over what their progeny can view on TV and the Internet, Cox Communications Inc. believed it was time to give parents a chance to take better control of monitoring that content.

Launched in August in partnership with children’s advocate and America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh, the MSO’s “Take Charge!” program is designed to raise awareness and the use of parental controls and filtering tools for TV and Internet services that are already available in most homes.

Take Charge! comprises a comprehensive Web site that offers tips (www.cox.com/takecharge), as well as links to other information parents can use in this battle; a free guide, in English and Spanish; local educational activities within the communities the MSO serves; and a series of five public-service announcements featuring Walsh.

Through late November, Cox community relations director Mallard Holliday said there have been more than 30,000 visitors to the Take Charge site, while 100,000 of the guides had been disseminated.

Moreover, in concert with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which was founded by Walsh’s wife, and NetSmartz, the Internet-safety resource created by that group and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Cox will donate some $1.5 million worth of airtime for the PSAs.

For these efforts, and others that will follow, Cox is this year’s recipient of the Multichannel News 2004 Innovator Award for community service.

Cox conducted research which found that 85% of parents expressed concern about the mass media images their kids see, and was working toward some kind of initiative in this vein when Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 sparked a backlash from both viewers and legislators. That served as further impetus to push the program forward, according to Holliday.

In one of the program’s more recent developments, Cox teamed with Starz Entertainment Group’s WAM! channel on Dec. 2 for a town hall meeting, springing from the service’s award-winning original series, Table Talk: Real Families Face Real Issues, funded by the Anna and John J. Sie Foundation.

In this installment, the discussion centered on family Web-browsing and TV-viewing habits under the heading “Table Talk: How Far is Too Far?”

Broadcast from the MSO’s studios in New Orleans, the show was offered live to Cox systems around the country.

Looking ahead, Cox executive director of public relations Anthony Surratt said the MSO would work to enhance the program, based on ongoing research efforts, by adding new resources and filming new PSAs. (Walsh is committed through next June.)

“We view this as a long-term approach to using parental control,” he said. “This program has a lot of legs.”

Surratt said one of the next important steps would be getting the message out at forums held in Boys & Girls Clubs throughout 2005.

Cox also isn’t averse to making the program available to other MSOs.

“Take Charge is transferable to other MSOs,” Surratt said. “We have not pursued that yet, but we’re happy to share.”

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