McCain bill seeks to tie video franchising to à la carte pricing

February 27, 2006

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) plans to introduce legislation that would reward cable operators with relief from local franchise obligations if they adopt à la carte pricing for programming, the National Journal’s Technology Daily reported.

Under the McCain bill, video providers would continue to pay franchise fees and incur other obligations, but would be subject to less cumbersome statewide or nationwide agreements. Consumers, in turn, would have more choice in selecting specific programming that is attractive to them.

However, one Journal source suggested that franchise relief would not benefit cable providers because they already have negotiated with localities. But a McCain aide countered that cable operators would not have to renegotiate the agreements. In addition, cable companies and telecom firms entering the video market would be regulated similarly.

Cable operators oppose the measure, the report said. Major cable operators in January agreed to offer tiers of programming deemed suitable for family viewing. But conservative and faith-based groups argue that the tiers do not go far enough, and they want mandatory, per channel choices for consumers.

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