Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles F. Dolan Tuesday urged Congress to
consider overhauling cable laws to diminish the power of the broadcast industry
over cable operators and expand consumer programming choices.
Dolan, appearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, said Congress should
consider abolishing the right of TV stations to demand cable carriage and
prohibiting any programmer from demanding cable carriage on the most widely
penetrated programming tier.
Dolan also recommended re-evaluation of policies that allow broadcasters to
withhold their off-air signals unless cable operators carry their affiliated
He said his recommendations were designed to expand consumer choice. "Let the
customer decide," he added.
The backdrop of the hearing was in part ESPN's announced 20 percent rate
increase effective in August.
James Robbins, president and CEO of Cox Communications Inc., told the
committee he wanted Congress to understand that sports programming was driving
cable rates higher. But he added that he preferred for the market to work it
"I am not asking for government regulation," Robbins said.
Robbins suggested that cable operators should be able to pull from expanded
basic any network costing more than $1 per month, per subscriber.
Anticipating a rough session, ESPN issued a statement defending its service
and value to cable operators and customers.
"Ripping ESPN and other popular networks out of basic cable and charging more
for them is not pro-consumer. This would produce a firestorm of protest from
cable subscribers. With cable at $40 and the net cost of ESPN at about $1, there
is no basis to take that step," ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer
said in the statement.