Copps Not Buying a la Carte Argument


Federal Communications Commission Democrat Michael Copps isn’t buying the cable establishment’s criticism that a la carte programming options for consumers would harm niche networks aimed at minority groups.

“I think that’s a question we need to analyze, but I would also point out that it’s not that easy right now to break into cable,” Copps said Wednesday. “I think Ted Turner could appear in town tomorrow morning and say he was starting a new cable network, and he’d have a heck of a difficult time doing it.”

Cable sells programming in large bundles called tiers, but lawmakers and regulators are deciding whether the industry should unbundle some networks and sell them individually in order to help consumers lower their cable costs.

The FCC is preparing an a la carte report for the House Energy and Commerce Committee due Nov. 18. The cable industry, except for small operators, is fighting any attempt by government to force a la carte, saying that it is a business model that would cause consumers to pay more for fewer channels.

Articulating the contrary position, Copps said cable subscribers could be better off if they did not have to purchase channels they didn’t watch or found offensive or indecent.

“It obviously sounds attractive. It gives consumers options. That’s always something we ought to be looking at,” he added. “Obviously, consumers don’t like to pay for something they don’t watch or don’t really want.”