David Honig of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Counsel says that as appealing as a la carte sounds in terms of being a boon to consumers, it actually would not beneficial and would decimate diversity on the channel menu.
Honig said that a tier system of programming makes room for many special-interest and niche program services in an MVPD’s program guide. That gives them the necessary exposure to a wide pool of potential viewers, allows them to be sampled and as a result pick up a regular audience.
In an a la carte environment, such channels wouldn’t have a chance. Since they would be unknown to the vast majority of MVPD subscribers, they would have scant chance of being picked off a menu and would be out of business before they even get started.
He called the current method of delivering MVPD programming provides an economic model that successfully supports diversity and aids in the success of niche channels and minority- and female-owned companies.
The imposition of a la carte seems appealing, said Honig, but ultimately it would kill off existing independent channels that have found a home on channel lineups and make it virtually impossible for new entrants to gain a foothold.
Explaining that the same arguments apply now that did when McCain earlier made the same attempt to force a la carte on the industry, Honig concluded, “As I wrote in 2006, television exposes us to cultures with which we’re unfamiliar and ideas with which we may be uncomfortable. That’s a good thing: without that programming diversity, Americans would become less informed, less challenged, less enlightened, and more culturally illiterate. Without programming diversity, we would be more likely to shy away from debate and isolate ourselves into the polarized subgroups that make our political discourse so full of hatred and stereotypes. That’s why a la carte isn’t just a ‘technical’ television issue. It’s a potential stake in the cultural and intellectual heart of our nation.”