All three major television distributors — broadcast stations, cable networks and satellite services — have united for the first time in a media campaign to educate parents on how to block objectionable programming from their children, as cable and satellite outlets fear that the government crackdown on broadcast indecency will spread to them.
The government’s recent tenfold increase in fines for broadcast indecency combined with the public’s nearly nonexistent use of blocking technology, such as the V-chip, has motivated the three rivals to join forces in contributing airtime for a series of public service announcements.
Two TV spots — each with a 15-second and a 30-second version — are to debut Wednesday on local broadcast stations and the top 100 cable channels, as seen on cable and satellite systems, said Peggy Conlon, chief executive of the Ad Council, which creates public service announcements for use on donated airtime. The ads direct parents to a Web site, www.thetvboss.org , which instructs viewers on the use of blocking technology.
The man behind the campaign is longtime motion picture industry lobbyist Jack Valenti, who met with Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) in November when the two leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee convened a working group of industry, government and advocacy representatives on the topic of indecency.
The senators asked the entertainment industry for a plan to counter the rising coarseness of television broadcasts. The alternative was a further crackdown on indecency and the possibility of legislation requiring cable and satellite operators — such as Comcast Corp. and the DirecTV Group — to change the way they sell channels.
The cable industry has been airing consumer-education campaigns since 2004, but Stevens and Inouye made it clear that those didn’t allay all their fears, said Rob Stoddard, senior vice president for communications and public affairs for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the major trade group of the cable industry.