Policy

Wyden Wonders About Tier Buy-Through

12/16/2005 8:55 AM Eastern

Addressing concerns raised by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Time Warner Cable said Friday that subscribers to its new family tier won't need to buy another tier of service besides the introductory broadcast-basic tier that must be purchased by federal law.

Time Warner Cable spokesman Mark Harrad said that after purchase of the basic tier, a subscriber can sign up for the family tier without making another programming purchase. A digital set-top-box rental, however, is needed to view family-tier channels.

Harrad was asked to respond after Wyden took to the Senate floor Friday afternoon to complain that Time Warner might require family-tier subscribers to purchase an extra tier of programming with racy content they don't want in their homes.

"While I was pleased to see that [Time Warner's] proposal included G-rated stations that run child-friendly content 24 hours a day, it is unclear what will be included in the package that parents must purchase in order to purchase a kids’ tier," Wyden said.

A Wyden spokesman said the senator was referring to a tier of service other than the basic tier. Wyden is the author of legislation requiring cable operators to deploy a tier of kid-friendly programming or face per-day fines of $500,000.

Wyden's spokesman did not say where the senator got the idea that Time Warner might impose a tier-buy-through requirement on family-tier customers. But Wyden twice raised it as a possibility in his remarks.

"Parents may still have to subscribe to a tier that includes stations that carry foul language, excessive violence and inappropriate sexual content in order to subscribe to the kids’ tier. That's not what my legislation called for at all," he said.

Time Warner announced Wednesday that before March 31, it will offer a 15-channel family tier for $12.99, plus another $7.95 for the digital box. Channels to be offered include Toon Disney, Discovery Kids and C-SPAN2.

Unlike Wyden, family-tier proponents Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin have not issued statements on Time Warner's move.

"It is my intent … to watch very closely to the developments that we have seen in the past couple of weeks with respect to Time Warner," Wyden said. "If we don't see this kind of kid-friendly programming, a tier of kid-friendly programming done right across this country, I'm going to come back to the Senate and push for my legislation.”

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