'Call It What It Is — Censorship’

Programmers debated such topics as indecency and a la carte programming choices at the May 4 opening session at the National Show, which featured Fox Networks Group CEO Tony Vinciquerra, NBC Cable president David Zaslav, Showtime CEO Matt Blank, Oxygen chief Geraldine Laybourne and E.W. Scripps CEO Kenneth Lowe.

“Let’s call it what it is — censorship,” Laybourne said in describing the backlash in Washington after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance in January, a development moderator Anderson Cooper of Cable News Network called the “nipple ripple.”

Vinciquerra pointed out that the Super Bowl flash wouldn’t have a been big deal had it appeared on networks such as FX, HBO or Showtime, because their viewers expect edgier content.

Showtime’s Blank concurred. “People do know what they’re getting at Showtime, but we’re very concerned about the lumping of all of this programming together,” he said.

All of the programmers on the panel said the industry and consumers would be hurt if legislators were to force cable operators to offer subscribers a la carte programming choices. Blank said BET wouldn’t have succeeded in an a la carte world.

“It’s the devastation of any new business,” Laybourne added. “It’s a loser proposition.”