Weatherford Democrat

Community News Network

May 14, 2013

What if you could pay for cable channels a la carté?

WASHINGTON — It's time to let television viewers buy individual channels, rather than being required to pay for bundles of programming, Sen. John McCain told a Senate panel Tuesday.

"Consumers shouldn't have to pay for television channels they don't watch, and have no interest in watching," said McCain, R-Ariz., who has introduced legislation to force cable and direct-broadcast satellite companies to offer channels individually, or a la carte.

Cable rates have attracted congressional scrutiny before Tuesday's hearing at the communications subcommittee led by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. The market isn't working for consumers who are paying more for TV service, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Commerce Committee that houses the subcommittee, said at a July hearing.

Consumers Union, an advocacy group based in Yonkers, New York that works for fair markets, has endorsed McCain's bill.

"Cable customers have to buy larger and larger packages of channels," Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel, said in an emailed statement.

The average cable bill for expanded basic service - the most popular channels package - increased 6.1 percent annually from 1995 through 2011, rising from $22.25 to $57.46, the Federal Communications Commission said in a report last year. The number of channels in such a package rose to 124, from 44, the FCC said. The price per channel dropped three cents, to 57 cents, the agency said.

Consumers are watching more TV each year, and "the value of cable's video service continues to be the best of any form of entertainment at just 23 cents per viewing hour," Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the Washington-based National Cable & Telecommunications Association trade group, or NCTA, said in an email.

McCain's bill would deny licensing privileges to pay-TV companies that don't offer programming for purchase separately, and would keep broadcasters from demanding retransmission fees if they don't let their channels be sold a la carte.

The measure also would require non-broadcasters such as Viacom Inc. to offer programming individually to pay-TV companies. In addition, it would revoke an airwaves license from a broadcaster that doesn't send an over-the-air signal identical to the signal sent through pay-TV companies.

CBS and Fox have said they may go off the air if courts don't block Barry Diller's Aereo Inc., which accesses broadcast TV signals and resells them online for $8 to $12 a month - without paying a retransmission fee.

No hearing date has been set for the bill, and no votes have been taken.

It's unlikely the bill will pass, "but it is still relatively early" in the congressional session that runs through next year, Paul Gallant, Washington-based managing director at Guggenheim Securities, said in a note yesterday. McCain doesn't sit on the Commerce Committee that handles TV legislation and it's not clear if Rockefeller will push the issue, Gallant said.

McCain, the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2008, can bring attention to the issue, Gallant said.

Cable and broadcast groups in testimony submitted to Pryor's committee said changes aren't needed.

"The system is not broken" and changing laws that govern programming distribution "is not in the public's best interest," Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, said in testimony submitted to the panel. Members of the Washington-based trade group include Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, News Corp.'s Fox, Comcast Corp.'s NBC and CBS Corp.

Lawmakers generally don't need to intervene in the marketplace, which is competitive, Michael Powell, NCTA president, said in written testimony for the subcommittee. Members of the Washington-based trade group include largest U.S. cable company Comcast, based in Philadelphia, and New York-based Time Warner Cable Inc., the second-largest.

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast
Poll

The City of Weatherford is considering an ordinance that would ban smoking inside restaurants and enclosed areas where food is prepared, sold or consumed. Do you agree with this proposal?

Yes
No
Undecided
Don't care
     View Results