Groups Revive a la Carte Campaign

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Conservative organizations concerned about racy TV programming Wednesday revived their campaign for a federal law that would require cable companies to sell channels individually at reasonable prices.

The cable industry is strongly opposed to an a la carte mandate, claiming that it would raise rates and bump off niche and specialty channels that can’t survive outside of the traditional tiering structure.

Despite a pair of federal studies that reinforced cable’s arguments, the industry has been unable to shake those calling for greater amounts of family-friendly TV programming.

“We feel very, very strongly about reigniting this topic on Capitol Hill this week and this Congress,” said Lanier Swann, director of government affairs for Concerned Women for America. “Above all else, families want choice put back into their hands. It is not up to cable companies to control exactly what is being pumped into the homes. It is up to the families.”

People who subscribe to cable generally need to buy packages that include dozens of channels. Parents have to call the cable company or use blocking technology to prevent children from viewing indecent and inappropriate content.

“We believe we should have the right to … choose the cable channels that come into our home, rather than being forced to take them and then call the cable company and have them block it out,” said Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, an adviser to Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

The Parents Television Council and Morality in Media are also backing the a la carte effort.

“It’s a top priority for us that cable choice should be at the top of the national dialogue in terms of what is allowed in the home,” said Dan Isett, PTC’s director of corporate and government affairs.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association spokesman Brian Dietz said a la carte requirements “will offer no benefit to the vast majority of consumers and will, in fact, result in higher prices, fewer choices and less diversity in programming.”

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has called on cable to provide more a la carte options or a family-friendly tier.

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