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Comcast, the largest US cable operator, plans to offer “family-friendly” programming next year, to assuage religious conservatives and regulators concerned about racy shows.

The package will include 16 networks in addition to the company’s basic cable offering, including Disney Kids, C-Span, Nickelodeon, CNN, and the Food Network. It would cost $31.20 a month.

The announcement comes a week after Time Warner Cable, the second-largest US operator, unveiled plans for its own “family-friendly” tier. The new services, expected to be mimicked by other cable operators, are seen as an effort by the industry to head off more far-reaching reforms from the Federal Communications Commission.

The cable companies are particularly concerned about calls by indecency opponents for an “a la carte” system, in which customers would be able to select and pay for channels individually. Industry groups have argued that such a system would undermine their business model, driving up subscription rates for consumers and forcing many niche channels out of business.

The Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition praised Comcast’s move as “an important step in the right direction”.

However, the introduction of such services has sparked debate about which programming should qualify as “family friendly”. While Comcast included Nickelodeon, the top-rated children’s network for the last decade, in its package, Time Warner excluded it.

Some conservative groups have accused Time Warner of deliberately creating a bland package to undermine the project.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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