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A la Carte Gets Bashed at FCC Hearing

Cable interests turned out in full force to remind the FCC that any attempts to impose a scheme to allow cable and satellite customers to pick and choose their own channels will be met with virulent opposition.

At a meeting at FCC headquarters in Washington, representatives from cable networks as well as a prominent financial research firm formed a line to shoot down Sen. John McCain's (R-Az.) proposal to force the cable and satellite industries to offer an a la carte structure that many said could be the death knell for fledgling cable networks.

Calling the plan "one of the worst ideas" she's ever heard, Oxygen Media CEO Geraldine Laybourne said that if a la carte had been in place when the Oxygen Network had started out it never would have gotten off the ground. Laybourne also said that the plan would mean "consumers would pay more to get less."

No broadcasters spoke at the hearing which was part of an FCC Public Notice (MB Docke No. 04-207) that is examining the likely impact that a la carte would have on consumers.

Michael Copps, the only FCC commissioner to attend the hearing, openly mused that a la carte could help reduce "skyrocketing cable bills" as well as offer another way to allow parents to block offensive programming.

A representative from Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology and management research firm reported findings from its study that predicted nothing but gloom and doom for the cable industry and its customers should a la carte ever become a reality.

The study predicted a la carte would result in higher cable fees, fewer choices, more complex billing systems and would create a "dead zone" that would seriously discourage the development of any new cable networks.