In a bid to pre-empt federal indecency curbs, America's cable-TV operators are offering to supply subscribers with channel-blocking technology free of charge.

Around half of the nation's 70.5 million cable customers do not have the equipment to filter out channels or programmes they think unsuitable. This week, a group of cable firms -- between them accounting for 85% of all subscribers -- declared they would install the necessary devices where needed.

The plan, announced by Robert Sachs, president of the National Cable Television Association, is an attempt by the industry to head off government action. Cable and satellite channels are not subject to the same strict obscenity regulations as broadcast networks -- though some in Congress believe they should be.

With indecency now at the top of the legislative agenda, lawmakers have discussed forcing cable companies to offer subscribers family-friendly packages or let them buy individual stations one by one.

"No one wants policymakers to have to choose between protecting children or preserving the First Amendment," Sachs declared. "So if we, as an industry, actively promote the choices and controls available to consumers, there will be no need for anyone to do so."

In addition, the cable industry has set up a website,, advising parents on how to use the V-chip in televisions constructed in or after 2000. This device, which can block both broadcast and cable programming according to a voluntary ratings system, is the industry's preferred solution.

Data sourced from: USA Today; additional content by WARC staff