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Cable channel choice gains powerful advocates in McCain, FCC

February 9, 2006

FCC “A La Carte” Report Says Consumers’ Cable Bills Could Be Cut by 13%; McCain Pledges Legislation in Support

(Washington, DC) – Consumers could be one step closer to having real cable channel choice and lower cable prices with today’s announcements by the Federal Communications Commission and Senator John McCain (AZ-R) backing cable “a la carte.” The FCC report issued today found cable “a la carte” pricing could lower cable bills by 13 percent and Senator McCain pledged he will quickly introduce cable choice legislation.
“Consumers should praise FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Senator John McCain for striking at the heart of the cable industry’s flawed pricing scheme which forces consumers to buy packages of television channels they don’t want and shouldn’t have to pay for,” said Jeannine Kenney, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. “Today’s action kick starts the national effort to give consumers’ wallets a break and allow them more control over their television programming choices and cable bills,” added Kenney.
Cable companies and broadcasters have fought “a la carte” pricing for years, hiding behind the fallacious argument that channels had to be bundled together to keep all programming afloat. As a result, consumers have been paying for dozens of channels that they never watch. The average household watches only 17 channels on cable systems.
“In 2004, the FCC issued a staff report based on erroneous assumptions that kept this costly bundling charade going,” said Kenney. For example, the old report assumed consumers would watch nearly 25% less television per day if they were allowed to buy only the channels they want to watch. “Today’s FCC report shreds the foundation of this industry-sponsored deceit.”
Among the conclusions of the new FCC report are:
— Buying cable channels a la carte could save consumers up to 13% on their monthly cable bill;
— A la carte could make it easier for new channels to be aired on cable systems, and better respond to consumer demand for more diverse programming
— The current practice of forcing consumers to buy large bundles of programming drives up cable prices and reduces subscribership of cable television
“We look forward to working with Senator McCain, other members of Congress, and the FCC on policies and legislation that will lower cable prices and bring greater cable channel choice to consumers,” Kenney said.
More information related to cable “a la carte” can be found by visiting www.HearUsNow.org.

Contact: Jennifer Fuson, (202) 719-5921