A la carte still on Martin's radar


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (R) and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein (D) offered differing views of the issue of forcing cable companies to offer their channels a la carte at the Aspen Institute Forum on Communications and Society. Martin reiterated his support for such a regime, while Adelstein noted it may not work as planned. Martin’s support has long been predicated on the concept that viewers should not be forced to pay for channels that they do not want and worse, which carry content they disapprove of and in particular want to prevent their children from viewing. According to denverpost.com, he restated his belief that paying only for those channels desired would give many subscribers a lower monthly bill. Adelstein noted that serious studies into the issue have found that price per channel may actually go up as cable programmers are forced to drastically increase their marketing budgets to make sure they are among the chosen under an a la carte model. He also said that this may well be a matter for Congress to decide rather than being something the FCC could do on its own.

TVBR observation: We will say it again. A la carte is a stupid idea, and for parents, it is far inferior to the simple use of channel blocking technology. Adelstein makes the point that the price of each channel may go up, not down under this scheme. What will certainly skyrocket is price per channel. Your 50 bucks may get you 100 channels now; under a la carte, it may get you 15. The losers will be niche programmers providing ethnic, religious and specialty programming. That’s why small cable programmers are almost uniformly against this proposal. Many of these opponents of a la carte are vehemently critical of the programming shown on some of their competitors, but they are smart enough to realize that it is better for them to be on the air alongside the edgy channels rather than be a la carted right off the cable menu.