Dorgan Asks GAO for Cable-Cost Study


Washington -- Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has asked the
General Accounting Office to study whether sports-programming costs are leading to higher
cable-subscriber rates.

In a July 10 letter, Dorgan asked the GAO to reply early
next year with answers to a series of questions related to the relationship, if any,
between sports-programming costs and cable-subscriber rates.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is not
unfamiliar with cable issues. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it prepared cable-rate
studies that were used by lawmakers to advocate price controls.

A Dorgan aide said the lawmaker sought a GAO study after
hearing from North Dakota cable operators that sports programming was driving rate
increases. Cable rates climbed by 8.5 percent in 1997, according to the Federal
Communications Commission.

Dorgan also asked the GAO to determine to what extent the
bundling of cable-sports networks with other satellite programming on a single tier
affects rates, and to what extent player salaries are pushing rates up.