commentary by Steve Effros Speaking Clearly The title of today’s column applies to many of my favorite subjects. Most of you have read my rants on these issues before. If you want to achieve a goal and are trying to get someone or something to aid in that process, you must make sure what you want or what you are doing is articulated clearly and understood easily. This is not rocket science. You don’t say "please desist" to your 2-year-old. You say "stop!" or more often "no!" Cable employees, our customers, parents, franchising authorities, opinion leaders, lawmakers, and yes, even our TV sets, are not 2-year-olds. They have to be spoken to in different ways, with respect, and understanding that there may be differences. But to the degree we can all speak clearly, we will be more successful. OK, you noticed I included the television set in my previous comment. That was not a mistake. Of all the things I saw and heard at the National Show, the one I thought was the most fun was Promptu, a voice-controlled remote control. AgileTV is developing the device, supported by several cable operators, including Comcast and Insight. Most of you know that I have a "thing" about remote controls, and the whole issue of program guides and the consumer interface. I have never seen better execution of that interface than Promptu. You literally push a button and talk into the remote. Tell it clearly what you want, and boom, it goes and gets it for you. Awesome! If you want to scan all the sports on right now, just say, "scan sports" and the pictures start coming. If you want to find out when "West Wing" is on, just say "West Wing" and an upcoming programs list appears. Say "record" and it’s set to go. It’s the ultimate in consumer ease, convenience and effectiveness. Of course, there are economic and business models to be dealt with, but the demonstration I saw, with a clean, uncluttered, simple program guide, worked flawlessly. I hope this thing catches on, and cable operators (it won’t work with satellite) offer it as a high-end incentive or add-on. Consumers will never let it go once they realize they can control their TV sets by simply speaking clearly. On the subject of controlling TV sets, that’s a message we must get out loud and clear to our customers. Recent activity and focus on Capitol Hill, it turns out, is not simply a reaction to infamous expletives and exposures, it’s related to the fact that our opinion leaders and customers (and apparently some of our employees) are not aware of all the things the cable industry has done and is doing to give customers full control of what they and their children see on cable in their homes. The industry is gearing up for a major campaign to emphasize that cable does, indeed, put consumers in control. But the only way that will work is if we say it clearly. That, of course, goes for everything we are engaged in, from the complicated issues of copyright and retransmission consent to the "hot buttons" of program content and tiers. If we work at speaking clearly (even to our television sets), we’ll all be better off.

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