05.07.2004 12:00 PM
McCain ponders cable à la carte requirement

Congress continues to put the à la carte squeeze on cable television operators. Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said last week he may soon introduce legislation that will require cable television operators to offer “à la carte” program services.

McCain’s statement came after Rep. Nathan Deal, (R-Ga.) changed his mind about introducing similar legislation in the House. Nathan said he would probably revise his legislative proposal so it applies only to satellite TV operators and not cable.

McCain, a chief Senate overseer of broadcast television policy, carries a big stick and the à la carte issue is a hot potato. Cable operators argue that such legislation could undermine pay television industry economics and led to the elimination of channels that survive only because they are bundled with more profitable programming fare.

McCain, reacting to a public backlash against escalating cable rates, told reporters that his proposal would not require all cable channels to be offered on an individual basis. “We’re just saying you can present two choices: You can have it à la carte or you can buy their packages.”

McCain spoke with reporters last week after a presentation of a new study by Concerned Women for America that found that 66 percent of the respondents want the right to choose what cable programming is included in their basic subscriptions. Eighty percent say they shouldn’t be required to pay for a basic package that includes channels they don’t want to view, the study found.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association disputes the finding calling the study badly flawed.

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