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CULTURE DIGEST: Legislators propose ‘a la carte’ cable packages;…

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–With a goal of letting consumers choose which cable channels are appropriate for their homes, legislators have introduced the bipartisan Family and Consumer Choice Act with a possible a la carte system that would let viewers pay for only the cable networks they want while blocking those they don’t.

“Currently, consumers face limited choices and are forced to pay for many channels to which they would rather not expose their children,” Rep. Dan Lipinski, D.-Ill., who sponsored the bill along with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R.-Neb., said June 14 when the bill was introduced. “For example, in order to subscribe to popular educational, news and sports channels, they have no choice but to receive and pay for channels such as Spike TV.”

Lipinski noted that the V-Chip, a device intended to help parents block unwanted content from their televisions, has shown limited effectiveness. A 2003 study, he said, found that only 15 percent of parents had ever used the V-Chip and just 27 percent of parents could figure out how to program it.

Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, appeared at the Capitol to help introduce the legislation and said television today offers “some of the coarsest programming ever produced.”

“All subscribers know that cable prices have risen at astounding rates — just as other communications costs have fallen,” Martin said. “In the last 10 years, cable prices have doubled. A la carte pricing not only gives parents greater control over the content available to their families, but also has the potential to lower prices for consumers across the board.

“Americans deserve greater control over content and their cable bills,” the FCC chairman added. “Our message today is very simple: No consumer should have to pay for content they do not wish to receive. Period.”

Though the bill is gaining support in Congress, the cable networks are sure to object.

“What is being proposed today is the creation of a free market in cable programming which does not exist today,” said Dan Isett, director of corporate and government affairs for the Parents Television Council. “Cable content is controlled by a handful of powerful media conglomerates who for years have extorted money from subscribers by creating new channels, adding them to expanded basic cable tiers and forcing subscribers to pay for them — whether they wanted those new channels or not.”

Members of Congress, Isett said, will need “real political fortitude to side with families and stand up to the millions of dollars the entertainment industry spends to buy influence in Washington.”

EPISCOPALS REJECT ANGLICAN REQUESTS — The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has concluded that the requests made by Anglican primates to stop ordaining homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions can only be dealt with by the denomination’s General Convention, which doesn’t meet until 2009.

After a four-day meeting in New Jersey, the council questioned the authority of the primates “to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion,” referring to the Sept. 30 deadline the primates had set for the Episcopal Church to respond to its request.

“We strongly affirm this Church’s desire to be in the fullest possible relationship with our Anglican sisters and brothers, but in truth the only thing we really have to offer in that relationship is who we are — a community of committed Christians seeking God’s will for our common life,” the council said in a statement released June 14.

“At various times in our history, we have struggled to embrace people who have historically been marginalized. We still struggle with those concerns, sometimes in new forms,” the council said. “Today this struggle has come to include the place of gay and lesbian people and their vocations in the life of the Church.”

Observers say the council’s announcement is yet another signal that the Episcopal Church does not intend to back down from its path toward liberalism, which could lead to an official split with the Anglican Communion.

The primates also had requested that the Episcopal Church form an alternative leadership structure for conservative U.S. dioceses and parishes that are at odds with the liberal leadership of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, but the council refused.

In March, the denomination’s House of Bishops said they were unwilling to compromise the church’s autonomy and its commitment to the full inclusion of “all God’s people,” including homosexuals, in church life. The bishops also rejected the idea of an alternative leadership structure.

On June 13, the Anglican archbishop of Kenya said he plans to consecrate an American bishop in Texas to minister to conservative Episcopals in the United States similar to the way the archbishop of Nigeria installed a bishop in Virginia earlier this year.

IOWA STATE PROFESSOR’S TENURE APPEAL DENIED — Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy again rejected Guillermo Gonzalez’ request for tenure, saying the professor “simply did not show the trajectory of excellence that we expect in a candidate seeking tenure in physics and astronomy — one of our strongest academic programs.”

Gonzalez, a professing Christian who has used his personal time to promote Intelligent Design, has published 68 refereed articles in science journals — 350 percent more than the 15 articles his department regards as the normal standard for demonstrating research excellence.

At least two members of Gonzalez’ department have publicly acknowledged that Intelligent Design played a role in the tenure denial, and two additional department members have been tied to a national statement denouncing Intelligent Design as “creationist pseudoscience,” according to John West, associate director of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.

“This is in addition to the 2005 petition in which more than 120 ISU professors argued that all faculty at ISU have a duty to repudiate Intelligent Design, thus imposing an ideological litmus test at ISU,” West wrote on the center’s blog.

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  • Erin Roach