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Liggins: 'Per-Channel' Threatens Diversity

In an op ed piece in Monday's Washington Times -- being circulated to reporters by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association -- TV One chairman Alfred Liggins took aim at proposals to require cable companies to provide networks on a channel-by-channel basis or to create family friendly tiers. He said supporting either could kill his new cable channel.

Both proposals stem from the recent Washington crackdown on indecency and attempts to encourage cable to give viewers more control over the channels that come into their home.

While both proposals sound appealing, he wrote, they would have a chilling effect on program diversity. TV One is a new African American-targeted cable network that launched in January, but it could be brought to "a screeching halt" by such proposals, he said.

"To reach the audience to which our programming is directed," Liggins says, "TV One and other networks need to be part of the "expanded basic" cable or satellite tier to which the majority of customers subscribe. Securing this carriage - with a potential advertising base of more than 80 million homes - allows us to sell national advertising. This ad revenue, along with the reasonable fees we must charge cable companies for carriage, allows us to provide high-quality programming.  Forcing cable and satellite companies to sell channels a la carte would instantly erode our potential advertising support," he argues.

Liggins also fears that family friendly tiers might hurt his channel as well. "Who decides what channels are 'family friendly?' Are the tastes and interests of African-American, Hispanic-American or Asian-American families considered? 
"Those who promote more diversity in today's media marketplace would do these efforts, and enterprises such as mine, a fatal disservice by supporting or voting for any such proposal."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.