WASHINGTON - Under pressure from the government, the nation's two largest cable companies and several others announced Monday a plan to offer packages of family friendly channels to give parents another option to shield children from sex, rough language and violence.
Kyle McSlarrow, head of the main cable trade group, said Monday that industry leader Comcast Corp., No. 2 Time Warner Cable, and a handful of other companies would start offering "family choice" tiers, most likely by spring.
Details will vary by company, McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, told the Senate Commerce Committee. He did not have an estimate on the cost.
The industry has come under increased scrutiny for raunchy programming, most recently from the head of the Federal Communications Commission. Chairman Kevin Martin urged cable executives at an indecency forum earlier this month to give parents additional tools to help navigate the hundreds of channels available to consumers.
Without endorsing a specific solution, Martin offered several suggestions, including family friendly tiers and so-called "a la carte" pricing, which would let customers pick and pay for only those channels they want.
Most cable executives have wholly dismissed the idea of a la carte, saying it would drive up costs and lead to the demise of channels that can't attract enough advertising dollars.
McSlarrow told lawmakers that he hoped the industry's announcement would stave off government intervention.
"I really hope that we can take mandates off the table," he said. "If the government intrudes into this space, it will get it wrong."