Rita, Katrina Change D.C. Cable Climate

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For cable, the hurricanes slashing the American seaboard have changed the political climate in Washington, D.C.

Digital-TV legislation that threatens to impose new carriage burdens has been postponed until late October, with its outcome uncertain. The indecency debate has also taken a back seat to the Katrina cleanup.

A good indication of the new mood came this week when the Senate Commerce Committee called off a hearing on ways cable and satellite can help to shield kids from video raunch.

Although no formal announcement came out, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was hoping to convene the hearing Tuesday. Because of other pressing matters (namely, hearings on hurricane prediction and energy pricing), Stevens decided to reschedule indecency.

In May, cable announced a $250 million public-awareness campaign to promote parental controls that cable provides with digital set-tops. Although Stevens called that progress, he still thinks cable can do more. Specifically, Stevens is likely to push cable to include more family-oriented channels in the broadcast-basic tier, according to knowledgeable sources.

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