Castrated cable

Castrated cable

: The LA Times reports a frightening bit of gutlessness — no, balllessness — from the cable industry:

But in an attempt to avoid anti-indecency backlash, sources say, [Comcast Corp. CEO Brian] Roberts may move to take some of Comcast’s raciest programming off the air.

Sources said that Roberts was considering not renewing “The Howard Stern Show” ó the videotaped version of the shock jock’s rant-filled radio program ó when the contract expires this spring. The show, which helped put the E channel on the map, is still a ratings winner. But Roberts is worried that Stern, who has racked up more than $2 million in indecency fines for the nation’s radio stations, could provoke unwanted scrutiny from Washington, especially if he gets even raunchier once he moves to satellite radio in January.

This is particularly ballless because what cable is trying to avoid is a push to allow consumers to get a la carte channels, which many consumers say they want and which would solve the problem of getting and paying for channels you don’t want in your home (as opposed to blocking them but paying for them anyway). He’s willing to throw out the First Amendment — not to mention customer service — for that.

What’s doubly appalling about this is that it is the result of Congress and the FCC enforcing a law they haven’t even enforced yet. They are pressuring cable to get rid of the shows they don’t like — and we do — with the mere threat of legislation…. legislation that surely will be found to be unconstitutional in any case.

This is an abuse of power. Cable should be standing up to it. It should be squealing like a stuck Ted Stevens pig.

So let’s add Roberts to the ballless hall of fame with Disney, which invited censorship of cable to avoid a la carte pricing.

And let’s contrast that with Johnathan Rogers, a respected TV exec and a good guy I men when he was at CBS. Rogers has balls:

If a compromise cannot be reached, cable executives here warn, some of America’s most-watched shows could become targets, including such “basic” cable offerings as “Nip/Tuck” on News Corp.’s FX and Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which some critics allege promotes a gay lifestyle. Premium cable channels, such as HBO and Showtime, could also face restrictions.

“Viewers are in jeopardy of losing some of their favorite programming unless they speak up,” said Johnathan Rodgers, a longtime television executive who is now chief executive of TV One, a cable channel aimed at African Americans. The 5 million people who watch FX’s “The Shield,” for example, “should let their congressmen know, because other people are labeling it indecent,” he said. “That’s a judgment call.”