Time Warner unveils family cable plan

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Time Warner Cable, one of the nation’s largest cable operators, on Thursday unveiled a new tier of family-friendly programmes that it hopes will assuage anti-indecency campaigners and head off calls for greater government regulation.

The Time Warner service, known as the “Family Choice Tier”, consists of 15 channels: Boomerang, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, CNN Headline News, The Science Channel, Discovery Kids, Disney Channel, DIY Network, FIT-TV, Food Network, HGTV, La Familia, Nick Games & Sports, The Weather Channel and Toon Disney.

The package will cost subscribers $12.95 per month in addition to the $12 that most already pay for basic cable.

Time Warner and other cable operators pledged earlier this week to offer such packages amid regulatory pressure from Washington.

They appear to have been motivated by concerns that Kevin Martin, the new head of the Federal Communications Commission, would push for a more radical solution of “a la carte” programming, in which subscribers have the right to select and pay for only the channels that they desire.

Cable companies have argued strenuously that such a system would undermine their business model and lead to higher rates for consumers and a narrower selection of channels.

Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable, said the new service would offer customers “yet another way to obtain kid-friendly programs without the need for them to take an active role in monitoring shows”.

However, many indecency opponents, who favour a la carte, have criticised the family tiers even before they were announced.

One indication of the sensitivity of the debate over what constitutes suitable programming for minors is that Nickelodeon, a leading children’s network, was left off the service.

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