Blocking Programs or Channels

Cable television operators determine the channels that are available on their cable systems. To help increase the number of subscribers, a cable operator will select channels that appear likely to attract a broad spectrum of viewers. Because of this, a cable subscriber may receive programs as part of a programming package that he or she does not wish to view.

Federal law now requires broadcasters of most programming available on television to alert viewers if a program contains violence, inappropriate language, or other material that a viewer may find offensive. Generally, the broadcaster and not the cable operator is responsible for the programming that is shown on a particular channel. The cable operator usually does not have the right to prevent the transmission of a program containing objectionable material. Individual subscribers, however, have two important tools that they may use to prevent programs or channels from being viewed on their television sets.

  1. Lockboxes. These are devices a subscriber may buy or lease from the subscriber’s cable company. They are also available from some retail electronic stores. A lockbox can literally lock particular channels so that the programming cannot be viewed.
  2. V-chip. A V-chip is circuitry in a television capable of identifying governmental ratings and blocking the programming that an individual finds inappropriate. Depending on its technical specifications, the V-chip may block individual programs, or it may be used to block one or more channels entirely. All television screens that are 13-inches or larger and that are manufactured or imported for use in the United States are required by law to be equipped with the V-chip. The law required manufacturers to produce 50% of their televisions with the V-chip by 1999, and the remaining 50% were to contain the v-chip by 2000. Televisions not equipped with a V-chip may be fitted with one.

Inside Blocking Programs or Channels