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A la Carte Amendment Big Step Toward Control Over Cable Bills

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Susan Herold, CU, 202-462-6262
Lara Mahaney, Parents TV Council, 800-882-6868
Rebecca Riggs, CWA, 202-488-7000

Cable ‘A la Carte’ Amendment Major Step in Giving Consumers Choice and Control Over Bills, Programming

(Washington, D.C.) – An amendment offered today by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) to allow cable and satellite companies to voluntarily offer channels “a la carte” is a major step forward in giving consumers an effective tool to help control their cable bills as well as the programming that comes into their homes, consumer and advocacy groups say.
Gene Kimmelman, public policy director for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, praised Rep. Deal’s leadership for offering the “Video Programming Choice and Decency Act of 2004” as an amendment to the reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act during Wednesday’s House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Rep. Deal withdrew the amendment, but said he plans to offer it during next week’s full meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“We applaud Representative Deal for his leadership role in giving consumers the option to pick and pay only for those cable or satellite channels they want in their homes,” Kimmelman said. “Consumers are demanding choice and control when it comes to the channels and programming they pay for, and policymakers are hearing their concerns. We hope the industry will not stand in the way of giving consumers this important option.”
Deal’s amendment would provide the opportunity for any cable or satellite operator that wants to make an a la carte option available to its subscribers – in addition to any other packages of channels they wish to offer – a chance to experiment with the channel-by-channel selection for a trial period. It also would require the Federal Communications Commission to report back to Congress the results of the trial after 12 months.
A letter supporting the amendment, signed by Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Concerned Women for America and Parents Television Council, said: “A la carte channel selection also provides a market path through the indecency thicket. Rather than having the government in the precarious business of deciding what content is or is not appropriate for citizens, “a la carte” allows individuals and families to decide what channels they will subscribe to and which they refuse to either watch or pay for.”
The letter also noted that most Canadian cable companies already offers their residents a la carte channel selection, and that U.S. consumers who use older satellite dish technology (C-Band) also can receive a selection of channels a la carte. To read the letter, click here.
To send a letter to Congress in support of cable choice, click here