Stevens Floats Cable Ratings, Tiering


In a new proposal, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Friday that he is looking to the cable industry to rate programming for indecent content and perhaps segregate that content on separately purchased tiers.

“We’re looking to create tiers, or create a system like the movie business,” Stevens told reporters, according to a transcript provided by his staff.

Stevens said it would be acceptable for him if the cable industry crafted the system that could then be codified in law.

“If they want to walk in and say, ‘We’ve created a system now, Senator, and this will work,’ fine. That’s what happened, by the way, with the movies, do you remember that?” he added.

Stevens' proposal for cable seemed to clash with his March 1 comments to broadcasters and reporters that he was planning to move legislation that would effectively graft broadcast-indecency rules onto cable, which would mean a ban on indecent content from 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

“We’re not going to censor cable,” Stevens said.

His plan would appear to call on cable to assemble a package of channels that do not have indecent programming. Stevens said he was concerned, based on thousands of e-mails from the public, about racy cable programming that takes parents by surprise.

“We ought to find some way to say, ‘Here is a block of channels,’ -- whether it’s delivered by broadband, by VoIP [voice over Internet protocol], by whatever it is, to a home -- ‘that is clear of the stuff you don’t want your children to see,’” he added.

It also appeared that he was no longer considering moving indecent cable programming out of the 6 a.m.-10 p.m. safe harbor.

“You can buy anything you want. I don’t care how they package it. If you want to pay for [it], you have a right to buy it. We’re not saying anything about purchases, except we’re saying that they have the burden to tell you what’s in it, like the movie business does, not force you to expose your children first and then go back and say, ‘How can I get rid of this stuff?’” Stevens said.

Stevens is planning to move his cable legislation in committee when the Senate returns from the Easter recess in the first week in April. He plans to attend the National Show before returning to Washington, D.C.

“As a matter of fact, I’ve only been married for 25 years, and I’m going on my honeymoon a week from today. Coming back from that honeymoon, we’ll stop in at the cable convention and talk to them,” he said.