PTC, other watchdogs urge court to end cable channel bundling


Parents Television Council has long had a beef with MVPDs – it does not like to pay for a channel that it finds objectionable – and hates that cable and satellite services tell you what you’re going to get rather than the other way around. Along with watchdog organizations including the Consumer Federation of America, it is urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear a class action suit petitioning for an end to the practice of channel bundling.

The case is Brantley v. NBC Universal. Joining PTC in the filing of an amicus brief are CFA, Concerned Women for America, Morality in Media, Family Research Council Action, Citizens for Community Values, Arizona Family Council, and Illinois Family Institute.

 “The cable industry in the United States operates like a cartel and has insulated itself from free market principles because of its massive economic power. Consumers, not the cable industry, should decide which networks they purchase every month. We urge the Ninth Circuit Court to put an end to this massive anti-consumer con,” said PTC President Tim Winter.

Winter said you shouldn’t have channels you don’t watch forced on you because a cable system decided to link it to a channel to which you do wish to subscribe.

It is Winter’s belief that cable channels that wouldn’t stand on their own make a completely unwarranted amount of money anyway simply by being linked to a strong channel. He even quoted a broadcaster on the topic. “Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS, told a packed conference hall at the National Association of Broadcasters meeting that ‘cable is the only media business in the world where money doesn’t follow eyeballs.’ Moonves is right and the cable cartel knows it,” Winter said.

RBR-TVBR observation: We haven’t heard too much about a la carte programming lately. Proponents of it used to have two highly-placed allies: former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ). Martin is now in the private sector and McCain has moved on to other legislative duties.

Furthermore, the current FCC administration has moved on to broadband and retrans seems to have taken over as the dominant cable issue in Washington.

We understand the point about being forced to pay for something you don’t want. The other side of that coin is that it the administrative costs of providing a la carte would be more expensive than a tiered structure – an argument supported by the newspaper model where you get a sports section, a lifestyle section, a business section etc. whether you want them or not.

It will be interesting to see if the Ninth Circuit will light a fire under this issue. Stay tuned.