Martin Pushes for Family Tiers


Republican Federal Communications Commission member Kevin Martin spoke out
Wednesday in strong support of new cable-programming packages designed to suit
all members of the family, including children.

Martin, in remarks at the National Association of Television Programming
Executives' conference in New Orleans, stepped into the cable-tiering debate on
the side of cable programming carve-outs both as a means of trimming cable bills
and as a way of promoting family-friendly fare.

Although broadcast- and cable-programming choices have exploded in recent
years, Martin lamented that primetime hours when families gathered around the TV
are clogged with violent shows suitable for adults but not children.

"And parents subscribing to cable or satellite have their own set of
problems: In order to purchase the family-friendly programming, they are forced
to buy much programming that is not as family-friendly," he said in prepared

Martin urged broadcasters to revive the family hour, which calls for nothing
but family-friendly programming from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through

He called on cable and direct-broadcast satellite to create a separate
expanded-basic tier that "might include ABC Family, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon,
Discovery [Channel], [The] History Channel, National Geographic [Channel], CNN
[Cable News Network], Fox News [Channel], Food Network, ESPN, C-SPAN, etc."

He added that if a family tier were not the solution, cable and DBS should
expand their menus to include more a la carte options.

"The combined result would enable parents to receive [and pay for] only that
programming they are comfortable bringing into their home. Under either
alternative, parents would benefit greatly," Martin said.

The cable industry has long resisted breaking up tiers, claiming that a la
carte would undermine its core business model.

A spokesman for EchoStar Communications Corp. -- the No. 2 DBS provider, with
8 million subscribers -- said the company was family-friendly and provided
numerous "parental-lock" features to protect children.