PTC Chief Blasts Comcast Family Tier

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Parents Television Council president Brent Bozell Tuesday slammed Comcast Corp. for proposing a family-friendly program tier that largely excluded sports, movie and news channels.

Bozell, who advocates the a la carte sale of cable networks, complained that Comcast deliberately designed the family tier to make it an unattractive option.

“This is more foolishness from the cable industry, another example of a major cable operator which owns cable networks clearly working to undermine cable choice,” said Bozell, who also mocked Time Warner Cable’s recently unveiled family tier on similar grounds.

Early next year, Comcast plans to make available a 16-channel tier featuring such networks as Disney Channel, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN, and Discovery Kids. The package would be sold in addition to the basic tier, which, under federal law, must include local broadcast-TV stations and must be purchased by all cable subscribers.

In response to Bozell, Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said family tier components were based on four criteria, such as the extent of live programming, the level of general entertainment and family programming, scope of carriage on Comcast systems and compliance with existing carriage contracts.

Bozell complained about the basic tier buy-through requirement, noting that cable companies may use the tier to bundle local TV signals and national cable networks.

“In some markets,” he said, “consumers will get TBS (with Sex & the City) and USA (with reruns of the Law & Order spin-offs).”

FCC chairman Kevin Martin, a family tier and a la carte advocate, told the Washington Post on Dec.22 that although he was pleased by the rollout of a family tier, he was unclear whether “consumers are going to be able to see that as an alternative that they will be able to subscribe to.”

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