Programmers send letter to FCC opposing a la carte proposal

Wed, 04/16/2008 - 8:32am
Mike Robuck

Top executives from five major cable programming groups signed a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin that outlined their opposition to a recent a la carte proposal by Martin.

At an industry event last week, Martin proposed that cable companies could remove a network from an expanded basic tier with a monthly licensing fee of 75 cents or more per subscriber. Martin has long sought some sort of a la carte programming by cable operators during his FCC tenure.

The letter, dated yesterday, said in part that the FCC should "focus on the DTV transition instead of distractions like a la carte, what is most troubling about your proposal is how devastating it would be to consumers."

"Specifically, your proposal would result in popular networks that consumers expect to be widely available being stripped out of the expanded basic service, thereby forcing consumers to pay an extra charge to watch them," the letter continued. "As your comments make clear, government intervention into wholesale or retail programming decisions inevitably leads to price controls. Moreover, the perverse result of your proposal is that the most successful and most watched programs and networks – typically those that invest the most in quality programming – would be penalized for their popularity to the detriment of consumers."

The letter – which also copied FCC Commissioners Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein, Robert McDowell and Deborah Tate – finished up by stating: "If your plan is ever adopted, consumers will be outraged. As we and all credible experts have consistently concluded, consumers will pay more and get less under government mandated a la carte."

The letter was signed by ESPN President George Bodenheimer, MTV Networks Chairman Judy McGrath, Univision President Jeff Gaspin, Disney Media Networks Co-Chairman Anne Sweeney, Turner Broadcasting System Chairman Phil Kent and Fox Network Group President Tony Vinciquerra.

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