Powell Wants Cable Help on Indecency

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Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell has reached out to the cable industry for help in curbing children's exposure to indecent and violent programming.

In a letter Tuesday, Powell asked National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs to draft a voluntary plan within 30 days that will help parents to protect children from inappropriate TV shows.

"I believe the cable industry can and should better inform the public of the tools available to them to better control the programming that enters their homes," Powell wrote.

Powell has stepped up the FCC's oversight of indecent TV programming in the wake of the Super Bowl halftime show, during which pop diva Janet Jackson exposed her right breast with assistance from singer Justin Timberlake.

Separately, Powell wrote the National Association of Broadcasters asking for the reinstatement of the industry code of conduct. The NAB responded that it would soon hold an industrywide summit on programming standards.

Powell proposed that cable engage in a voluntary educational and outreach campaign that will show parents how to find family-friendly programming and use tools to keep out programming unsuitable for children.

Sachs replied to Powell Wednesday, saying that the cable industry was committed to helping him address his concerns.

"We recognize … that there is still more to be done, especially in educating cable consumers about the choices and parental controls available to them," Sachs wrote, pledging a detailed response within 30 days.

Cable is not covered by FCC indecency rules, which include fines of up to $27,500 per offense. However, federal law requires cable operators to make available (for sale or lease) devices that allow subscribers to block cable services.

Cable customers may also use the V-chip embedded in TVs and digital on-screen guides to block programming on a per-channel basis and by rating code, such as "TV-MA."