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Cable Operators

Cable: We’re Parental-Control Pioneers

4/25/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

The cable industry says it was at the forefront of content-control technologies, and continues to improve them, an effort that will be aided by the migration to digital transmission of programming.

That was the message to the Federal Communications Commission in comments geared to an upcoming report to Congress on the state of the V-chip/ratings system and other methods for giving parents information about TV content and ways to ensure their children don’t see objectionable fare.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said it pledged support back in 1994, when it also launched its “Taking Charge of Your TV” initiative with the Parent Teachers Association. It has backed the ratings system in 1997.

And, the cable trade group said, “as increasingly more cable customers obtain digital set-top boxes from their cable operator, parents have access to additional features that they can use to limit the programming that their children watch.”

It cited numerous public service messages and other educational efforts in tandem with a host of partners, and cable’s long history — predating the V-chip/ratings system — of scrambling channels and allowing customers to block certain programming that otherwise would be part of their service tier, first via a device outside the home, then with in-home blocking via set-top technology.

Cable also has tools that help parents limit access to Web sites that include online video parents might not want their kids watching.

The NCTA said it has made it easy to block shows using the ratings via program guides, and with a system sensitive enough to, say, block a TV-PG-rated show with a violence warning, but not one with a language warning, if that is the customer’s preference. Or shows with a violence warning can all be blocked regardless of the rating.

Some digital set-tops can also be programmed to skip channels, and even exclude them from the on-screen guide.