The Critical 'I'

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

BLOCKING OFF WHAT YOU PAY FOR
The battle against indecency trudges on, and your cable television provider is only too happy to help you play household censor. The cable industry announced plans to make channel-blocking equipment available for free to its subscribers, and has even set up a website to show people how to do it.

Robert Sachs, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, announced the plan at a gathering of cable industry executives. It comes just as both lawmakers and regulators, attempting to crack down on indecent programming, have discussed requiring cable companies to let subscribers buy individual channels or a family-friendly tier, rather than have to purchase packages that include both the Disney Channel and MTV. The cable industry opposes the idea...

"No one wants policy-makers to have to choose between protecting children or preserving the First Amendment," Sachs told the Cable Television Public Affairs Association. "So if we, as an industry, actively promote the choices and controls available to consumers, there will be no need for anyone to do so."

Here's the thing: You're still paying for those channels, even though you're blocking them. Thus, the cable companies get fatter for doing basically nothing. A residual effect could be that, in the event of outages, there will be fewer complaints because of fewer subscriber households actually viewing all the channels. It's a big racket.

This reminds me of that "Simpsons" episode where Homer finds all of the Flanders' household's television channels blocked off, tells Ned that he thought he had satellite service, and Ned proudly replies, "Sure-diddly-do! Over 200 channels locked out!"