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Cable Technology Feature Article

May 13, 2013

Senator McCain Reintroduces Bill for A La Carte Cable TV Packages

By Frank Griffin, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Even if you had all the time in the world, it would be almost impossible to watch all the channels your cable and satellite providers bundle together. Consumers have complained for some time about being forced to purchase channels they do not watch by their cable companies. Senator John McCain is going to once again try to introduce a bill that would let consumers choose the channels they want.  

According to the senator, "There’s an awful lot of people who don’t consume (200 channels), and most of us would like to look for creative solutions. This is unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry and against the American consumer."

The bill he is introducing is the TV Consumer Freedom Act of 2013, which will give the consumer à la carte options. When the senator first introduced the bill in 2006, it did not find the right support. The hope is the increased number of channels since that time will encourage his colleagues to give the consumer the choice of purchasing the channels they want.

This bill has many new regulations that will find opposition from cable, satellite, broadcasting companies and professional sports teams. The greatest opposition will probably come from broadcasting companies that will be barred from bundling their broadcast stations with cable channels. As more media companies come together under one umbrella, they want to negotiate cable contracts that include all of their affiliates. This bill would not allow them to do that, therefore limiting the audience of their weakest performing stations.

A lawsuit with a similar issue between Cablevision and Viacom (News - Alert) is also being addressed by the senator.

Another portion of the bill will end sports blackout on cable stations, even if it is blacked out on a local broadcast television. Professional teams generally don't broadcast local sports events unless it is sold out. This rule would be applied to any venue that is partially paid with taxpayer money, and since the vast majority of stadiums are built with some sort of tax incentives, they would be forced to repeal the blackout restrictions.

"My legislation would eliminate regulatory barriers to a la carte by freeing up multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) – like, cable, satellite and others offering video services – to offer any video programming service on an a la carte basis. In the end, the Television Consumer Freedom Act is about giving the consumer more choices when watching television. It’s time for us to help shift the landscape to benefit television consumers," said McCain.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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