Congress to hold hearing on cable advertising

Apr 22, 2009 By DEBORAH YAO , AP Business Writer

(AP) -- Cable operators will sit in the hot seat Thursday as Congress reviews their plans to roll out targeted advertising amid fears that consumer privacy could be infringed if the companies were to track and record viewing habits.

The House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will hold a hearing that will look at new uses for digital set-top boxes, the devices that control channels and perform other tasks on the TV screen. Cable TV companies plan to use such boxes to collect data and direct ads more targeted to individual preferences.

"We have recently called on Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate cable's new interactive targeted TV ad system on both antitrust and privacy grounds," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

He's concerned about Canoe Ventures, a consortium formed by the nation's six largest cable companies to oversee the rollout of targeted and interactive ads nationally. Chester worries that Canoe will track what consumers do in their homes.

Currently, cable companies aim their ads based strictly on geography.

Now, cable's goal is to take the Internet's success with targeted ads and transfer that to the TV medium. Thus, a household that watches a lot of Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel eventually could be targeted for theme parks promotions. This type of targeting is something can't do.

For starters, Canoe plans to offer ads this summer that consider demographic factors such as age and income. Philadelphia-based Corp. and Corp. of Bethpage, N.Y., also have been testing or rolling out targeted ads outside the consortium.

But are wary about being seen as trampling on consumer privacy and reiterate that they don't plan to target based on any personally identifiable information, such as someone's name and address.

Canoe said it doesn't have plans this year to use set-top box data for ads. Instead, the first ads it plans to roll out will use demographic data collected by outside companies.

Interactive ads will come later in the year. Consumers watching TV could see a button pop up that they can click using their TV remote control if they wish to get more information about the product or service being advertised. They will be sent the information using the address on file with the cable company. Canoe said it will get customers' consent to such targeting first.

Testifying before the subcommittee is Kyle McSlarrow, chief executive of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. Consumer advocacy groups represented include Free Press and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The hearing will also focus on how network operators track consumers online and through wireless networks. AT&T Inc. is sending its chief privacy officer, Dorothy Attwood.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: For top broadband policy, look no further than Canada

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cable's answer to online's ad success: targeting

Apr 07, 2009

(AP) -- You're watching Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," when suddenly you see a commercial for the Mustang convertible you've been eyeing - with a special promotion from Ford, which knows you just ended your ...

Ad watchdog: Cablevision Internet not 'fastest'

Mar 27, 2009

(AP) -- Cablevision Systems Corp. should stop saying its Internet service is "the fastest around," the advertising industry's self-regulatory body said Thursday, in response to complaints from competitor Verizon Communications ...

Cable TV companies mull impact of online video

Apr 01, 2009

(AP) -- Cable TV operators have treaded gingerly with online video. The companies want to meet consumer demand for watching shows on the Internet. But they don't want cable TV to lose its place as the home's main entertainment ...

Comcast, Sony to open joint retail store

Mar 16, 2009

(AP) -- Despite the poor economy, Comcast Corp. and Sony Corp. plan to open a retail store Tuesday. The cable TV operator and the electronics company will use the store to showcase new technologies and products, taking a ...

Time Warner Cable shelves some Internet cap plans

Apr 16, 2009

Bowing to mounting public and political pressure, Time Warner Cable Inc. said Thursday it was shelving plans in four markets to charge customers based on how much Internet traffic they generate. But tests of metered billing ...

Recommended for you

Bringing emergency communications together

7 hours ago

A new University of Adelaide research project aims to improve emergency operations through integrated communications systems for police and the emergency services.

For top broadband policy, look no further than Canada

Aug 20, 2014

You might have seen communications minister Malcolm Turnbull raising the issue about Australian press not discussing policy problems and solutions from overseas, in a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute Media Awards last week: ...

Cities, states face off on municipal broadband

Aug 19, 2014

Wilson, N.C., determined nearly a decade ago that high-speed Internet access would be essential to the community's social and economic health in the 21st century, just as electricity, water and sewers were in the previous ...

New loss mechanism for global 4G roaming

Aug 19, 2014

A loss mechanism that has not been an issue in previous mobile handset antennas will become important for global 4G roaming, according to results of experiments carried out in Aalborg, Denmark.

User comments : 0