Two Senate Commerce Committee lawmakers are praising the cable industry's announcement April 28 to put in place better safeguards for parents who want to protect their children from racy and violent p


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two Senate Commerce Committee lawmakers are praising the cable industry's announcement April 28 to put in place better safeguards for parents who want to protect their children from racy and violent programming. A third member of the committee, saying that the self-regulating measures don't go far enough, introduced a bill the same day to require cable companies to offer a "kid-friendly" family-tier package.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, co-chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., gave the cable industry kudos for announcing an improved "Control Your TV" program at their annual convention April 28.

The new initiative includes: new and improved ratings icons that will remain on the screen for a longer period of time at the start of each rated program and will again be shown after each commercial break; a $250 million new public service announcement campaign that will be on over 100 cable networks; a partnership with the National Parents' Teachers' Assn. to hold 100 local "Control Your TV" events; and notices about the initiative on monthly bills.

Stevens called the plan "a step in the right direction." Brownback said the initiative "will empower parents to make good choices for their families without the need for government intervention."

However, the bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the same day as the announcement would require cable companies to offer a tier of channels that parents could buy.

Insiders say the cable industry rolled out the improved plan to thwart such legislation. They say special-tier -- or a la carte choices -- would doom lesser-watched channels which are subsidized by more popular fare. That in turn would lead to higher cable rates, they say.