Cable Companies Want to Unbundle Broadcast TV, and Broadcasters Are Angry
A Congressional proposal to let cable and satellite customers choose which broadcast TV channels they pay for has led to a battle between small cable companies and broadcasters. While cable companies usually are opponents of mandates to sell channels individually instead of in bundles, in this case they are fighting for à la carte and against the broadcasters. The “Local Choice” proposal by US Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) affects local broadcast stations such as affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox.
A group called tvfreedom.org that represents local broadcasters and other organizations today criticized the American Cable Association (ACA) for supporting Local Choice. “We believe ‘Local Choice’ represents a frontal assault on free and local TV broadcasting,” TVfreedom Public Affairs Director Robert Kenny wrote. “It would tilt television’s balance of power in favor of pay-TV providers at the expense of broadcasters invested in localism. It would cost consumers more on their monthly bills, and do nothing to address shoddy pay-TV service or the deceptive billing practices of cable and satellite TV providers.”
TVfreedom is composed of “local broadcasters, community advocates, network television affiliate associations, multicast networks, manufacturers and other independent broadcaster-related organizations” and says its mission is to make sure “cable and satellite TV providers [are] held accountable for stifling innovation and repeatedly using their own customers as bargaining chips while increasing their record profits.” The group chided the ACA for supporting à la carte pricing this year despite arguing in a previous case that “current technology costs make à la carte a financial impossibility for ACA member systems, the business model is entirely unproven, and no lawful basis exists for imposing regulated a la carte.”