05.03.2004 12:00 PM
Proposed legislation for cable programming choice

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) last week said he will introduce legislation in the House of Representatives to allow cable and satellite television customers to pick and pay for only the program channels that they want to receive.

Congressional consideration of à la carte programming stems from increased constituent complaints over the growing cost of pay television services. Currently, cable and satellite operators bundle channels in tiers priced by the package. Such required packaging would be eliminated under the Deal’s legislation.

Deal insisted his proposal is not a mandate to end packaged program offerings. “No one will be forced to provide à la carte if it’s technologically or economically unable to do so,” he said.

“It is also my opinion that unless this step is taken, the public is going to start asking why the six top programming conglomerates who own or have interest in 153 cable channels, including 30 of the top 36, can routinely tie and bundle families of programming services on a take it all or get nothing basis,” he said.

The Georgia congressman said he was planning to offer the legislation as an amendment to the satellite TV bill that is expected to be voted on by the House Energy and Commerce Committee within the next couple of weeks.

Rep. Deal’s proposed legislation drew praise from consumer organizations, led by Consumer’s Union, a group that has previously advocated elimination of bundled tiers of programming. Consumers are demanding choice and control when it comes to the channels and programming they pay for, and policymakers are hearing their concerns, said Gene Kimmelman, public policy director for Consumers Union.

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